How Hungary’s opposition leaders reacted to the Őcsény fiasco

October 4, 2017

Photo: The Budapest Beacon

Two weeks ago, the village of Őcsény was the scene of a national scandal. Villagers threatened the life of a local guesthouse owner, slashed his tires, and vowed to do what they could to prevent him from providing shelter to bonafide refugee families.

Prime Minister Orbán responded to the scandal by siding with the outraged villagers, and condoning their violent actions against the owner of the guesthouse.

We asked the leaders of 10 opposition parties what they thought of the Őcsény scandal. Here’s what they told us.

 


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Photo: Index.hu/János Bődey

Lajos Bokros, MOMA

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

I am sad to see that the citizens who have been incited by this fascist government chose to deliver “people’s justice” — this is both unlawful and a crime!

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

Viktor Orbán’s response encourages others to criminal acts and is therefore a criminal act in and of itself.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

People who have been given refugee status must be guaranteed freedom of movement. This is enshrined in international law.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

I would assist in taking care of the refugees, just as MoMa [Movement for a Modern Hungary] did in 2015.

 


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Photo: Budapest Beacon/Balázs Pivarnyik

András Fekete-Győr, Momentum

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

Unfortunately, what happened in Őcsény shows where these hate campaigns can lead…Orbán’s propaganda brings the worst out in people: it redirects people’s deepest fears (for example, those who have lived in small settlements who, even after eight years of Fidesz governance, still see no future for themselves and are still struggling to get by) towards groups that cannot even be lumped into one, because as long as we are terrified, we do not have to talk about the conditions of hospitals or the lagging education system. We are working to unite society and usher in political peace. Orbán politics – which play on people’s fears – will backfire because it is uncontrollable. It can sweep him away at any time, if the people come to believe that Orbán can no longer protect them.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

The other similarly strong statement Orbán made was that “[the Hungarian people] have been lied to so much with this migrant issue that they no longer believe that only children will come.” Ever since he has said this, he still has not made it clear who has been doing the lying. It is Orbán’s propaganda that is doing the lying, and that is why his statement is so disgusting. If he approves of the method in which [the residents of Őcsény responded to the guesthouse owner providing a place to rest for the families], surely he is also impressed with the “decidedly firm, loud, and clearly-understandable” manner in which Lajos Simicska expressed his opinion of Orbán.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

Momentum’s goal is to set up a humane and effective system in which the interests of the Hungarian state, individual citizens, those crossing the border, and the European Union all prevail. We will do away with the various [bureaucratic layers] to ensure that the procedures for those crossing the borders will be conducted by a state agency, from the moment they enter the system until the moment their procedure has been concluded. While they are here, the asylum-seekers will only be permitted to leave the closed facilities on justifiable grounds, but they will be able to move freely within the shelter. Additional office space with increased capacity will be provided to authorities to process asylum claims.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

It is in no one’s interest to take someone to a place where they might fall victim to some harm. It is for this reason – because of the misguided fear that the propaganda has stirred up – that we would first concentrate on conflict prevention and start by consulting with locals.

 


How Hungary's opposition leaders reacted to the Őcsény fiasco
Photo: Index.hu/Péter Németh Sz.

Gábor Fodor, Hungarian Liberal Party

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

I would like to point out two things here. First, it is important to see that – despite the hate campaign – the situation is not completely hopeless. There are open and kind people in Hungary who are eager to help. At the same time, we also see where this irresponsible hate campaign leads to. It may set back by 20-30 years the ability of people to live normally side by side and the acceptance of others who might be different. In my opinion, this is one of the most harmful things that the Orbán government has done to this country.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

Viktor Orbán either does not understand the situation, or he does — which is even worse. If he does not understand what is happening, it is tragic. If he does understand, and is simply cynical, it shows that he is only concerned with victory and guided by political profit — this is even more tragic. I think it is unacceptable for someone to speak this way in a bar, let alone the prime minister speaking this way in front of an entire nation.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

Those who have been granted refugee status must be ensured the freedom of movement. The cornerstone of liberal refugee policy is humanity and liberal order. The laws must be followed and executed. Aside from the perspective of humanity, the UN Charter and EU laws also require Hungary to do its part in assisting those who have fled their homes.

We agree with the German liberal party’s position that a refugee status is a temporary status, therefore those with refugee status must return home once the conflict has been resolved. This is something that is important for the post-civil war reconstruction of these countries. Immigration is another issue: it is currently in Hungary’s interest to develop a regulated and comprehensive immigration policy. We, liberals, agree with the immigration system used in Canada. This is what ensures secular rule of law and an educated labor force.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

Naturally, I would go there and help them, just as I did with my fellow party members two years ago. These people need help, not more contempt and persecution.

 


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Photo: Index.hu/János Bődey

György Gémesi, Új Kezdet

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

It’s tragic and extremely saddening to see the kinds of emotions that flared up at the town hall forum against someone who was trying to do something charitable. This business owner and a foundation were trying to do something nice by providing support for a few days to people recognized as refugees by the Hungarian government. The locals lost their heads and responded with such hate. As a mayor myself, I am sad to see the mayor of Öcsény’s resignation. He was a very prepared mayor who served that area for 11 years. The settlement really went too far with this.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

My opinion is that the prime minister was not entirely appraised of the situation. He did not see the clips that the television news reports played. Despite this, I think his response to the incident was not a response. If the prime minister, the man who leads the Hungarian state, sides with the outraged locals over those who enjoy the protection of the Hungarian state, then he accepts that the people are essentially criticizing the state’s decisions. From this perspective, this village rejects the prime minister and the Hungarian state. This is a consequence of the hate campaign that has been directed at the refugees, Soros [of the Open Society Foundation], Brussels, and other institutions. This is the huge problem, not what the prime minister said. If he is really that out of touch, then he obviously will not admit that he received criticism. The behavior of the residents of Őcsény was a criticism of the Hungarian state and the Hungarian government.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

If someone receives refugee status, that person must be guaranteed freedom of movement — there’s no other way about it. One does not have to come from Africa, Syria, to receive this protection. They can come even from Transcarpathia. Whoever receives refugee status in Hungary – be they Turkish, Syrian, Transcarpathian, even Russian – enjoys the protection of the Hungarian state. That’s all there is to it. Now, whether someone rightfully received refugee status is another question, but that’s not mine to decide. But if someone receives refugee status, you simply cannot restrict their freedom of movement. You can’t just lock that person in a box. And we should not confuse refugees with non-refugees. But, in this case, we are talking about people with refugee status — people just like those many Hungarians in 1956. They received refugee status because the Russians were in this country.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

Nothing. What would I do? Should I go over to where they will be? What should I do? If there is a guesthouse and the owner says that the refugees will be his guests for a week, then all they have to do is play by the rules. If he owns an empty house and invites someone over, that’s his business because that’s his private property. This man did not invite criminals to his house, he did not take terrorists there, he invited people that had been guaranteed the protection of the Hungarian state. Looking at it this way, I simply don’t see what the issue is.

 


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Photo: Index.hu/István Huszti

Ferenc Gyurcsány, Democratic Coalition

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

[Biologist and ethicist] Vilmos Csányi has taught us that it is coded in our genetics to be afraid of cultures and individuals who do not necessarily conform to our community. Our own communities offer us security, while foreign communities pose a challenge. That’s how simple the code is. But while the modern world has dramatically reduced these fears – in some communities these fears are almost completely gone – the fears have not all passed. What is at least as important to note is that deep-rooted fears can be triggered by outside stimulus, they can be triggered.

In recent years, the otherwise peaceful residents of Őcsény have become slaves to the government’s traumatizing public rhetoric inciting fear of foreigners. They have become trapped by fear. That is no justification for the behavior of the key local players who instigated this situation, or those who took part in the vandalism. While their responsibility is indeed serious, I do feel the government’s responsibility for this situation is far more serious.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

Orbán’s position is morally abject, and constitutes a public and criminal crime. If Orbán agrees with stigmatizing, discriminatory and unlawful behavior against a societal group then he is an inciter, someone who disregards his own duty to his fellow man, his proclaimed Christian values, and the totality of Hungarian constitutionalism and legal order.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

The freedom of movement cannot be taken from individuals who lawfully received refugee status. It is an unquestionable part of their legal status and existence as human beings.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

I would help them get set up in their homes, find schools for their children, find a physician for the family, and I would invite them over so that we could get to know each other.

 


Election 2018: too many opposition parties, too few slices 1
Photo: MTI/Zsolt Szigetváry

Péter Juhász, Együtt

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

It is very unfortunate that the government’s relentless, violent, disgusting, and deceitful campaign of hatred has led to this. Viktor has reached his goal: using his lies to turn Hungarians against Hungarians, while completely distracting the public from addressing how much Lőrinc Mészáros has stolen for him.

We have to recognize that this is no longer only about whether the residents of Őcsény would welcome refugees in their settlement. Of course, it is also unfortunate that the question even arises despite it being completely evident that the refugees are actually children who are persecuted and in trouble. This situation is also about an atrocity committed against a Hungarian man, a resident of Őcsény, because he wanted to help, because he wanted to do something humane, because he did not buy into the government’s propaganda, because he dared to think differently from the majority.

For this reason, I cannot put blame on the residents of Őcsény for this atrocity, because they only acted in the manner for which the government propaganda trained them. After so many hate campaigns, it is understandable that they would be so afraid, even if there is no reason for them to live in fear.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

Viktor Orbán has just openly advocated for inciting violence. Hungary’s prime minister cannot endorse that citizens deliver justice on their own by threatening and assaulting another citizen, damaging that person’s property, or curtailing that person’s right to self-determination. Only the state has a monopoly on the use of force, and even, under lawful and justifiable circumstances in conformity with the rule of law, may the state use force. It is precisely the statements like those made by Viktor Orbán that have led to lynchings and genocides the world has witnessed in the not-too-distant past. His position is completely unacceptable.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

Együtt has made it clear on numerous occasions that Hungary must take an active role in resolving Europe’s refugee crisis and that it must support a refugee quota. We have also made it clear that we believe not everyone must be accepted, but that we have a responsibility to welcome those who are fleeing war, violence, and certain death. These people must not be treated as criminals because they are not criminals. After assessing national security risks, we must follow European norms and ensure the free movement of these people, just as it is our responsibility and in our interest to ensure quality integration programs for them to help them learn the Hungarian language, offer them an education, and even help them learn about Hungarian history and culture. When this issue was raised, we offered a policy to deal with it.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

I would be the first person to organize support from civil society for the refugees. I would organize a fundraising campaign, a philanthropic movement, and would facilitate an opportunity for locals to get to know the refugees. I would handle any potential fears from the locals by engaging them through pamphlets and town hall forums. Effective communication can work miracles and I believe even the most hostile situation can be managed with helpful information, development of skills, and empathy.

 


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Photo: Facebook/Zugló

Gergely Karácsony, Párbeszéd

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

It is infinitely saddening that Fidesz’s years-long hate campaign has caused such fear and division in Hungary. Normal discourse has completely disappeared between neighbors, and while the visit of six refugee children prompted such emotions in Őcsény, no one in the village is talking about the fact that there is no local pediatrician, the local savings cooperative has closed, the village’s only ATM will be removed, and there is no wood for heating.

This is the situation around the entire country and this is what Fidesz’s goal has been all along: to use a nightmarish picture conceived by Orbán to distract the citizens from failed governance (inequality, the failed education system, the state of health care, etc.) and industrialized theft.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

Viktor Orbán either does not know that Őcsény was the scene of vandalism and life-endangering threats (which I doubt), or he knows this and tolerates it, even condones it. If the latter is the case, we must recognize that the chairman of Fidesz has sunk to a never-before-seen moral low: he is encouraging Hungarians to turn on each other. It appears that warlike rhetoric is slowly making way for instigating civil war. That is why we decided to file a criminal complaint for what he said.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

Those who have been granted refugee status in Hungary or other EU Member States have proven that they have fled war, and we know they do not pose a national security risk. We do not need to be afraid of them, there is no reason for us to reject them, and there is no reason for us to curtail their freedom of movement.

We know that many people are afraid of strangers, but if we take the time to get to know a refugee or a refugee family, we will see that they are people just like us, except that they are in a much more difficult situation.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

The Zugló city council accepted my proposal with two-thirds support – which included the Fidesz deputy mayor’s vote – that our municipality would provide a warehouse for those philanthropic organizations helping the refugees. We, the residents of Zugló, have always found a way to live peacefully among each other. Today, this district is diverse and I do not believe that a few visiting refugees would ruffle feathers.

For this reason, I would do nothing and would instead try to ensure that no one would  take advantage of people in a difficult situation in order to break the peace.

The role of politics in not to create stress, it’s supposed to do the exact opposite: to harmonize opposing interests and perspectives. For my part, I would like a district and a country where there is peace, where everyone feels at home, where everyone counts.

 


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Photo: Facebook/Kovács Gergő

Gergely Kovács, Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

The residents of Őcsény are in imminent danger. It is for this reason that I suggest, for security reasons, we build a fence around the village, institute curfews after 4pm, and restrict marriage between homosexuals and Muslims.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

The prime minister’s statement legalizing tire-slashing will give a significant boost to tire salesmen.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

We will build an overpass over the country for them.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

I would roll over to my other side.

 


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Photo: Index.hu/Orsi Ajpek

Gyula Molnár, MSZP

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

It is very unfortunate that Fidesz’s hate campaign has resulted in this. This campaign is Fidesz’s way to distract the people from seeing how it is looting the country. If MSZP was in government, we would live in a more peaceful country where the government would not generate fear, but would instead work to increase citizens’ sense of security. That does not require much beyond working for each other — and not against each other as Orbán does.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

Viktor Orbán defended crimes that are listed in the Hungarian criminal code — threatening someone with decapitation, truculence, and vandalism. This is incredibly harmful and I do not think there is any other way to interpret his words.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

Anyone who has received refugee status has been thoroughly vetted by Hungarian authorities and was not found to pose any risk that would otherwise restrict their entry into Hungary. If these people do not pose a risk, why would we lock them behind bars?

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

I would like to make this clear: we are talking about refugees, not migrants. Anyone who receives refugee status in Hungary has been thoroughly vetted by Hungarian authorities and was not found to pose any risk. For this reason, I don’t see why I should be concerned if a refugee comes to my municipality.

 


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Bernadett Szél, LMP

What are your thoughts on this Őcsény story?

What transpired in Őcsény is outrageous, and it is shameful that we are now at the point where refugees in Hungary – who have gone through every legal procedure – cannot spend a few days in peace at a privately-owned guesthouse. It is a complete failure of the rule of law that this could happen. But we must see that something like this would not have happened three or four years ago. What happened in Őcsény is the result of the several years long hate campaign which cost many billions of forints and was executed by the Orbán government. The billboards, national consultations, commercials veiled as being social information ads, the one-minute propaganda news reports, and constant [derogatory use of the word] “migrants” — Fidesz used everything in its arsenal to cast a nightmarish image of refugees.

What do you make of Orbán’s statement that he does not see anything wrong with the town’s response to the refugees visiting the guesthouse?

Instead of Viktor Orbán and Fidesz looking inwardly and acknowledging what their anti-refugee campaign has resulted in, the government is proud of what happened. No, what happened is not right and no, this is not how Hungarians would behave under normal circumstances. With this statement, Viktor Orbán condoned – in fact, supported – that Hungarians turn against each other.

Viktor Orbán has arrived at the point where he is now openly condoning truculence, violence, and racist hate-related acts. Therefore, Viktor Orbán has openly decided to stand on the side of violent criminals instead of those who are innocent — this a new low in Hungarian political culture.

Viktor Orbán legitimized threats specifically made against the life of the owner of a lawfully operating guesthouse, a man who has no connection to any civil society organization or public funds, because of a decision he made. In fact, Orbán expressly gave his support to these threats. Orbán claimed the Hungarians have been lied to about the migrants. He is right about that, he is the one who has systematically lied about this for the past three years.

It will be a slow process until we finally bring peace to this society, until we are able to change the fear and hate that has inundated society for years, but LMP will do this after 2018 because a successful Hungary cannot be built on hate.

What is your party’s message to Hungary’s voters regarding the free movement of individuals that have been granted refugee status?

Anyone that receives refugee status, that is, anyone who is legally in Hungary, is entitled to the rights and opportunities enshrined in Hungarian law, the Fundamental Law, and the Geneva Convention. Any curtailing of these rights is unconstitutional and runs counter to international law. Because the aforementioned laws guarantee the free movement of refugees, any curtailing of them is clearly a restriction of rights.

What would you do if you learned that your municipality planned to welcome refugees?

I would facilitate the opportunity for dialogue because everyone needs to become acquainted with the other’s life story and background. Instead of hate-mongering, there is need for everyone to understand where the other person is coming from because Hungarians are not a hateful people: they are open and eager to help. This is what needs to be facilitated, not hate-mongering.