The German Chancellor and the Hungarian Prime Minister at their press conference in Budapest | Tibor Illyés / MTI

Illiberalism cannot be interpreted

February 2, 2015

German chancellor Angela Merkel paid a half-day visit to Hungary this Monday at the invitation of the University of Szeged that presented her with an Honorary Doctorate title she received at the Andrássy Gyula German Language University in Budapest.
She also met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who said at his joint press conference with Angela Merkel after their talks that the successful Hungarian-German economic relationship in recent years is the proof that Germany is and will be part of the Hungarian present and future.

The Chancellor thanked the Hungarian people for their help during the regime change and for opening Hungary’s borders to the Germans. She recalled that this was an important milestone in the creation of German unity.

She added that a topic of discussion was the interpretation of democracy. Answering a question, Angela Merkel noted that "we have talked about the special characteristics of our democracies and we will need to deepen our conversation on this matter. For us, the roots of democracy are always liberal, though not only. Our party CDU has three roots: Christian Democratic, liberal and conservative roots. That’s what makes us a people’s party...I don’t know what to do with the word 'illiberal’ in connection with democracy."

In disagreement with that, Orbán said that not every democracy is necessarily liberal "and if someone wants to say that democracy is necessarily liberal, they demand privileges for an ideology that we cannot grant," suggesting he insists on his stance.

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According to political analysts, this visit by Angela Merkel primarily meant that Hungary is still important for Germany and that German-Hungarian relations are still ranked high in German foreign policy. However, it is not by accident that the German chancellor has not visited Budapest in the past five years Viktor Orbán has headed the Hungarian government. The analysts say it has been a clear indication that Berlin does not agree with the Hungarian PM’s ambivalent statements regarding the European Union and his stance regarding EU sanctions against Russia for the latter’s aggression in Ukraine.

Although, the most important talks during the few hours of the visit were with Orbán, the Germans made sure that Merkel also met with others like President János Áder, Jewish leaders, managers of German companies in this country as well as civilians and students. As German political analyst Kai-Olaf Lang put it, the Chancellor wanted to discuss all important issues – like the Russian sanctions or the European energy policy – ‘openly but not in the open’.

Since Hungary’s primary economic partner and investor is Germany, the situation of German companies here were also on the agenda. Some of them are satisfied with the conditions here but many of them lack the predictability and transparency of the Orbán government’s economic policy that seem to favor certain sector and certain companies. The Chancellor expressly stated that firms from her country like to invest where they can find a predictable economic environment.


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