Growing diplomatic row between Hungary and Romania

In the doldrums of summer, there is a growing and increasingly public conflict between Hungary’s Orbán government and the Ponta administration in Romania. In just the past two days, the diplomatic representatives of the  two countries, serving in Budapest and Bucharest, have been summoned by the respective foreign ministries of the two EU member states and both are claiming that the other is doing severe damage to bilateral relations.  Controversy erupted in earnest, when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán posted photos to his Facebook page of a visit to the Transylvanian town of Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tuşnad), depicting emblems and other memorabilia of the pre-1920 Kingdom of Hungary, which back then included the lands of Transylvania. The Romanian government viewed this photo as a clear nod to Hungarian nationalists and irredentists by Mr. Orbán. The photo also struck a sore spot with a government that steadfastly opposes any talk of regional autonomy for two majority Hungarian counties in Transylvania, known as Szeklerland (Székelyföld). Somewhat unconvincingly, the Orbán government argued that the photo merely shows historic symbols, and thus does not constitute a contemporary political statement.

The row continued this week, when Károly Zoltán Nagy, the first secretary of Hungary’s mission in Bucharest, was summoned by the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs over an interview that Ambassador Botond Zákonyi, gave to a centre-right publication called Romania Libera. (Mr. Zákonyi was on vacation and could not attend.) Mr. Zákonyi told the paper, which is affiliated with the Romanian opposition, that there wasn’t “enough good will” on the part of the Victor Ponta government to really mend and develop bilateral diplomatic relations between Romania and Hungary, particularly within the field of joint infrastructure projects. One such project involves the connection of some 10 roads that would allow for Hungarians and Romanians to cross over from one country into another with greater ease. Romania’s government argues that it will only move ahead with this, once Romania is allowed to join the EU’s Schengen Zone. Some on the Hungarian right argue that the slow progress on this front has more to do with fears surrounding Romania’s Hungarian minority and their growing connect to Hungary. Another stalled joint infrastructure project is a gas pipeline between the Hungarian city of Szeged and Arad, in southern Transylvania.

The Hungarian ambassador then went on to claim that Mr. Ponta is playing a nasty political game in the EU, against the Hungarian government: Mr. Ponta is setting up a dichotomy, with him being the “good Victor” and Mr. Orbán being the “bad Viktor.” Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that these remarks from the ambassador were disrespectful towards to the Romanian head of government and wholly inappropriate. The Ministry added, that Budapest was not respecting the general strategic framework that guides bilateral relations between the two countries, and which was adopted in 2002.

Following this spat, Mr. Ponta went on television Monday night, and lambasted the Hungarian prime minister and his government. Mr. Ponta noted that “all of Europe and the United States is criticizing the Hungarian government for its antisemitism, revisionism, its pro-Russian stance and for the fence built against immigrants.”

The two Vic(k)tors: Victor Ponta of Romania (left) and Viktor Orbán of Hungary (right).

The two Vic(k)tors: Victor Ponta of Romania (left) and Viktor Orbán of Hungary (right).

“I think that the Hungarian government–and the Hungarian ambassador is playing the government’s game–is very much trying to provoke us,” added Mr. Ponta.

Mr. Ponta then suggested, with some sarcasm, that Hungarians are so excited about more roads leading into Romania, because they like to cross the border to shop for cheaper groceries. He added that he is really pleased with western companies, previously headquartered in Hungary, that are now looking to move to Romania.

“I am quite satisfied with this,” the Romanian prime minister remarked.

This morning, Hungary’s government was livid with Mr. Ponta’s  televised comments, and summoned Romania’s ambassador in Budapest for a chat with Levente Magyar, state secretary in the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Mr. Levente commented that the Romanian prime minister’s remarks amounted to “unacceptable accusations” against Hungary. Mr. Levente’s office suggests that the Romanian prime minister is “engaging in anti-Hungarian agitation, in order to turn the attention away from his own internal crisis, caused by the series of charges brought up against members of his government.”

It’s not just a scorching summer weather-wise in eastern Europe, but also in terms of the deepening dispute and tit for tat conflict between the two Victors.

23 Comments

  1. The Romanians should NOT allow entrance to Orban to Baile Tusnad (or any other place) to spout his nationalistic anti-Romanian diatribe.

  2. Orban is relentlessly searching for enemies to hide his real war that he wages against his own nation, Hungary. Every day 165 Hungarian leaves the country, he looted Hungary from the pension found through health service, to education and everything he could. He stole the republic he rewrote the constitution, he practically has killed more than 70.000 Hungarians.

    He created a country of hatred, hunger and poverty in a possible slyest and creepiest way. This man is in the middle of the war. He doesn’t mind Hungary being destroyed, he doesn’t need a country he doesn’t need a home.

    Trench and front line; that is his home.

  3. Why is Viktor Orban considered nationalistic and anti-Romanian ? If you check on Youtube, it is full of videos posted by nationalistic romanians hellbent on exterminating the hungarian minority. Transylvania was hungarian once for many hundreds of years and was given to romania as areward for being turncoats not once but twice. Do you you have a guilty conscience Romania ? Is attacks still considered the best defence in Bucharest ? It would seem so.

  4. An one more thought:

    “Mr. Levente’s office suggests that the Romanian prime minister is “engaging in anti-Hungarian agitation,..”

    Let’s clarify it once and for all, as the same equivocation will popup everywhere even on HFP discussion boards by busy pro-Orban trolls.

    (A) It is not anti-Hungarian, it is anti-Orban. Huge difference.

    (B) It is not agitation it is criticism. Agitation is what the Fidesz propaganda machine does. And it’s so blunt, ludicrous, that Orban should understand that it only works for his own dark-soul brainwashed flock and should never try it on anyone else, specifically on anyone out of Hungary.

  5. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Richard. I hope somebody is paying you for spewing out all these ridiculous accusations and hatred against the Hungarian government. Is it Papa Soros’ money?

  6. Hello uncle Kovacs,

    Does Papa Soros pay for them?

    “The Hungary PM made a ‘rivers of blood’ speech … and no one cares ”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/30/viktor-orban-fidesz-hungary-prime-minister-europe-neo-nazi

  7. Hello uncle Kovacs,

    Papa Soros finances The Washington Post ant tells them what to publish?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/08/10/is-hungary-run-by-the-radical-right/

  8. Hello uncle Kovacs,

    Is The Washington Post a Soros payed anti-Hungarian site?

    Hardly ever. No one has problem with the Hungarians, just with Orban. they appreciate Hungarians as we all do.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/review-in-a-violinists-high-wire-act-virtuoso-kristof-barati-transfixes/2015/01/19/49f23558-a005-11e4-91fc-7dff95a14458_story.html

    That’s what Orban and his private Government the Fidesz never gonna get. The Hungarian government reap what they sow.

  9. Hello uncle Kovacs,

    Look Papa Soros pays the whole world, everybody.

    “Hungary: Orbán wasteland
    Posing as a Hungarian freedom fighter, Viktor Orbán has railed against his country’s chief investors: Germany and the EU …”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/14/hungary-viktor-orban-wasteland-leader

    You’re such an ugly anti-Hungarian visiting online publications trying to silence everybody who dares report about reality in Hungary and you are shameless enough to sarcastically drag Soros or anyone into your dirty game of accusation to silence whoever you pick with your cheap dirty personal attacks.

  10. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Richard… Don’t be silly? I’m not the one trying to silence anybody. I state my opinion just like everyone else.

  11. Arpad Kovacs says:

    I alluded to the fact that international financeer, George Soros, sponsors many liberal media outlets. I think this site is one. I did not say anything about The Washington Post.

  12. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Richard… I have also said that you’re being unfair to the government of Hungary. But that is your right; I just think sometimes you are undermining you own effort by going off on the deep end

  13. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Richard, the government of Hungary deserves criticism for it is not perfect but it is also not the monster you are trying to make it out to! That’s all!

  14. Uncle Kovacs,

    You’re really an off the wall out of class troll. You are trolling out of anger so much that you can’t even realize that the only reason I addressed you in four comments was that HFP will accommodate only one URL link attached to one post otherwise the post will have to wait long for moderation.

    As I gave four URL links I put them in four separate post. I didn’t mean to anger you and you don’t need to imitate me like an ape, unless you have some specific reason for that.

    So what was your reason to tear such a simple message of yours into four post the exact same number as mine posts for you? You didn’t post any URL links.

    Why you trolls are unable to use your brain and make a fool of yourself every now and then. Like little sulky kids in the kindergarten.

    Now I attach one more URL not specifically for you but for all readers, about what kind of murderer PM Hungary has. Turning back the wheel of history. He is the first one, I hope no one will follow him.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/29/hungary-pm-death-penalty-work-camps-for-immigrants-viktor-orban

  15. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Sonny Richard,
    Since you called me uncle, well. What’s good for the goose…
    You keep calling me a troll and yet, you call the PM of Hungary, Victor Orban, a murderer?! Ts, ts, not nice – not to mention that ITS A LIE!!

  16. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Morover, I don’t consider The Guardian a credible source. It’s an extreme left- liberal outfit just like this one. At any rate, I don’t need to post a link to any source; I know Hungary, I know its government, and I have a great respect for both.

  17. Arpad Kovacs says:

    And I’m realizing you are taking this MUCH too personally! You don’t have to be angry when you are debating, or even arguing. I can see that you have a serious beef with Prime Minister Orban. Is it something personal?

  18. The plethora of nervous meaningless vehement trolling responses here is not the only one. It’s a Hungarian national guideline officially supported.

    Worth to read.

    http://www.the-american-interest.com/2012/02/06/whats-wrong-with-hungary/

  19. Arpad Kovacs says:

    I think that Mr Levente Magyar mentioned in the article is absolutely right! Romanian Prime Minister Ponta’s virulent attacks on Hungary and its government has its roots in Mr Ponta’s personal problems.
    He is under investigation (and possibly indicted?) for corruption. It seems that he is trying to shore up his sagging personal and professional popularity by pulling out the Hungarian card.
    As terrible as it is it usually works in Romania where Hungaro- phobia has a long and sad history. Until 2012, before Socialist Ponta came to power, both Hungary and Romania have had center Right governments and relations were good. Mr Ponta came to power with a quasi- coup, that is, without an election, just displacing the center Right government with a left wing regime by inter- Parliamentary maneuvering.

  20. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Ponta’s regime has been harassing the Szekler- Hungarians (an ancient ethnic Hungarian tribe in eastern Transylvania living in 3 counties in one solid block.) His government has forbidden Szeklers using their own ancient national symbols, flags, and denying them self- governmemt within the Romanian state.

  21. Now there you go little sulky uncle Kovacs. You have made a silly mistake as I explained it to you and you want to cure it with making more and posting as many comments as you can. Hair of the dog? It’s for hangover, in the comment board it looks stupid.

    I asked many times the Orban government to pay some respect to others and assign quality trolls to us. Quantity won’t make it.

  22. Richard… IDK about you keep talking about trolling & stuff that has nothing to do with the subject of the article. I’ll just keep on

    • commenting on subject matters I’m interested in. You just keep on doing your job of hunting for trolls or whatever.

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