Travel safety, Egypt and the Orbán Government

On October 31st, a Russian plane crashed in the Sinai-peninsula and all 224 people on board were killed. It is suspected that terrorism had something to do with the crash: officials say it was likely caused by a bomb. The disaster has escalated fears over the capabilities of Islamist terrorists. Russia has already suspended flights to Egypt, Germany has warned its citizens. Belgium, France, Spain, Canada and the US have all issued travel warnings.

Not Hungary. There has been no warning from Budapest, instead the Orbán government is supporting its Egyptian friends. Confirming a bomb would be a PR disaster for Egypt’s leaders; it would derail President el-Sisi’s claim that he has crushed terrorism in his country. The Obama administration is critical of military President el-Sisi who is moving Egypt away from democracy by “stifling freedom of expression, arresting thousands for political dissent and failing to hold the security forces accountable for arbitrary or unlawful killings.”

El-Sisi and Orbán - the two authoritarian leaders understand each other.

Abdel Fatah El-Sisi and Viktor Orbán – the two authoritarian leaders understand each other.

Péter Szijjártó Hungary’s foreign minister was recently in Cairo to meet Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry. This was their fourth meeting within six months! On the joint press conference Mr. Shoukry thanked Hungary for not issuing travel warnings as the Orbán Government has expressed strong confidence in el-Sisi.

Mr. Szijjartó and Mr. Shoukry - press conference in Cairo.

Mr. Szijjartó and Mr. Shoukry – press conference in Cairo.

Growing up in Hungary I always had reservations about government communications related to travel safety. During the Communist Kádár regime it was common to hide accidents, even plane crashes. The Communist system did not tolerate failure and Soviet made planes or trains never malfunctioned. Those who questioned official explanations (if any) were labelled scaremongers and that was a crime.

In September 1975 a Soviet made Tupolev Tu-154 flying from Budapest to Beirut crashed into the Mediterranean, just minutes before landing at Beirut airport. On the board of Malév flight 240 there were 50 passengers and 10 crewmembers; none survived. The weather was fine, the plane was new and in a good condition and the crew was highly experienced. Beirut was a war zone at that time and several airlines had already limited or suspended service but Malév ignored the warnings.

First grieving relatives were told that nothing was found. Years later they learned that over 30 bodies were recovered and buried in a mass-grave in Lebanon. Rumors persist that the plane was shot down, either because it carried arms or because it was supposed to carry the members of a PLO delegation but in the end did not. Conspiracy theories are still widely discussed. In March 2010, a well-known pro-government journalist, Mr. Zsolt Bayer claimed on his TV program that Israel (actually he said “the Jews”) shot down the plane. No evidence supporting any theory has been uncovered.

I find it irresponsible that the Orbán Government is refusing to warn its citizens about the possibility of terrorism in Egypt. Politics must not override safety considerations and Mr. Orbán shouldn’t protect his Egyptian friends for political gains. This reminds me more and more of the authoritarian ways of the Communist Kádár-regime.

György Lázár

8 Comments

  1. Pierre Divenyi says:

    Yes. Orban’s Hungary looks more and more like the totalitarian Soviet-satellite country it was before 1989, without the socioeconomic benefits that that country provided for all of its citizens (like free, excellent education and acceptable-to-very good health care).

  2. I envy Hungary having such a decent strong-arm leader in Orban. He is a patriot and he has much support from the natural population of England.

    • Charlie London says:

      Yes, unfortunately.

      It’s so easy to believe the propaganda that gets even to us here in the UK, such is Orban’s hold over the media and the long reach of his tentacles.

      You know sweet fanny adams about Hungary – based on your fatuous comment.

      Get off your butt and find out about the corruption, the dictatorship and the unhappiness of the inhabitants.

      How do I know as a British national?

      Because I do – I visit often as a regular visitor – not just for those stag and hen parties in Buda.

      Find out what’s really under callous Orban and his mafia Fidesz before you make such ignorant posts.

      Go on….. Surprise us.

      Armchair ignoramuses are two a penny.

    • Charlie London says:

      Is that the best you can do?

      A dubious right-wing organisation spoon-fed with all the propaganda Orban can feed them for spondooliks.

      One of the tentacles, you know.

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