ISSN 2330-717X

Hungary’s Orban Urges Germans To Back EU Membership For Serbia

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By Sasa Dragojlo

In the latest in a series of full-page paid advertisements in popular European newspapers, the Hungarian government on Tuesday published a six-point critique of the current state of the EU in big-selling German tabloid Bild – with a seventh point backing EU membership for Serbia.

“In Brussels they are building a superstate. We say no to a European empire,” says the first point in the advertisement, which is headed with the insignia of the Hungarian government and signed at the end by Prime Minister Orban.

It continues with criticims of the European Parliament, NGOs and migration policies, and declares that there is no EU without joint economic success.

The advertisement has also been published in in Spanish daily ABC, Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, in French by Le Figaro, in Czech by newspaper Mlads fronta DNES, and in Croatian in Vecernji list, while some other media have refused to publish it.

The campaign comes as Orban endures a storm of criticism from other EU states over anti-LGBT legislation.

The advertisement’s call for Serbian EU membership did not come as much of a surprise since relations between Serbia and Hungary are better than ever, as officials from both countries are often repeat.

Critics say relations are flourishing on the basis of the shared authoritarian tendencies of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Hungarian Prime Minister Orban.

Hungary’s strategic interest in Serbia relates to its big diaspora in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina.

Parties representing the ethnic Hungarian minority in Vojvodina have been the catalyst for the improved relations between the two countries.

But behind the politics, business deals have been thriving too. A BIRN investigation revealed that a group of connected companies involving Orban’s associates and associates of Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party have come to dominate the business of Serbian street lighting.

Orban, known for his passion for football, has also recently started to invest in football in Serbia.

Serbian investigative media CINS has reported that Hungary has invested more than 70 million euros in Serbia in recent years to expand its influence.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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