• If you want to know an autocrat’s fate, you should look at his propaganda. The ever-shouting illiberal Viktor Orbán has never been silent for so long as during the recent resignation of his country’s president Katalin Novák.

    The head of state resigned after it emerged that she had granted a presidential pardon last year to Endre Kónya, a former deputy director of a childcare institution, where he had been trying to silence victims in a paedophile case. Judit Varga, former Fidesz justice minister and a leading candidate for the upcoming European Parliamentary election, also retired from public life, as she had countersigned the pardon. Viktor Orbán’s confidante and former human resources minister, Zoltán Balog, was also forced to apologise. A Reformed Christian bishop, Balog was an adviser to Novák, and supported the presidential pardon that sparked the scandal.

    This wave of resignations is unprecedented in Fidesz-ruled Hungary. Even more embarrassing was that Péter Magyar, Judit Varga’s ex-husband, gave an interview about state contracts and the Orbán government’s communication machinery. More than two million people watched his incendiary allegations. Orbán’s nightmare came true. On 16 February, tens of thousands demonstrated in Budapest.

    Weeks after the scandal broke, and following the breathtaking demonstration, the prime minister delivered his state of the nation speech. He appeared uncomfortable, and said this election year could not have started worse.

    Will Orbán`s power falter? Perhaps. It is disturbing that the crisis was not caused by opposition or criticism of the government, but by information that came to light by accident. The hypocrisy of Orban’s pro-family propaganda exposed government corruption and repression criticised by an insider, in the case of Magyar.

    The Hungarian opposition is not prepared for an eventual takeover, but Orbán still has two real adversaries: chance, and his own collapsing propaganda machine.

    One of Romania’s best-known scandal-mongers, far-right senator Diana Soșoaca, was stranded in Bucharest’s Constitution Square after organising a demonstration to support the country’s farmers.

    Romanian farmers have been protesting across the country since 10 January, demanding control of Ukrainian grain transits through Romania. In addition, they called on the government to maintain the reduction of excise duty on diesel used in agriculture. They also protested against the authorities’ tightening of nature conservation standards for agriculture.

    The far-right parties AUR and Soșoaca’s SOS RO wanted to join the protesters. However, the farmers distanced themselves from both. Though Sosoaca’s party received a permit for a march of 5,000 people, 100 tractors and 100 tractor-trailers in the capital, it was all in vain. The farmers preferred to demonstrate in the suburbs of Bucharest, in order to avoid association with the Romanian far-right

    The caption beside the post above ironically mocks the situation: “Tens of thousands of patriots protested today alongside farmers and SOS leader Diana Sosoaca in Constitution Square”.

    “Ukraine is known to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” said Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán last week in Paris, where he joined French President Emmanuel Macron for talks, ahead of the EU summit. “It’s a joke,” he added, that the country is ready to join the EU. 

    The French head of state tried to persuade the Hungarian prime minister to change his mind, but Orbán has stubbornly insisted on rejecting Ukraine’s membership application.

    By blocking Ukraine’s EU ambition, Viktor Orbán is once again telling his electorate that “Hungary comes first” and arguing that a quick accession would be “bad” for Hungarians. Ukrainians will ruin European agriculture the next day if they are allowed into the common market, the Hungarian prime minister said.

At the same time, he stressed that Hungary expects the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine to be fully guaranteed, and that the efforts made so far by Ukraine in this regard have been unsatisfactory.

    Sovereignty is the new buzzword of the Hungarian government. Not only did they submit a so-called sovereignty protection bill to parliament, but they also launched a national consultation and a poster campaign.

    The bill would establish an authority to detect and monitor any risks of political interference. It would also punish foreign funding of parties or groups standing for election with up to three years in prison.

    The poster campaign gives the impression that foreign interference in Hungary partly comes from the European institutions, and shows Alex Soros, son of Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, behind European decisions. Similar billboards against George Soros and former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker have appeared before. What’s ironic is that the Hungarian government has praised Juncker’s successor, Ursula von der Leyen.

    Times have changed, believes the populist Fidesz leadership, and the EU has become a target. The message of Zoltán Kovács, international spokesman of the government is: Hungary does not dance to their tune.

    “Ukraine is as far from EU membership as Makó is from Jerusalem,” Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stated jokingly in the Hungarian state media, a day after the European Commission gave the green light to the wartorn state’s accession negotiations.

    The old proverb quoted by the Prime Minister refers to Makó, a remote, rural town in Hungary, and is, therefore, a measure of large distance.

    Would Ukraine be a more faraway country for the Orbán cabinet than Moldova? The Hungarian government seems to have no serious concerns about Moldova’s EU accession. Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó visited Romania ahead of these negotiations, where he discussed energy cooperation with his Romanian counterparts and raised no objections to Moldova’s accession, which is important for Romania. But with Ukraine, Szijjártó says “war would come to the EU”.

    Above all, warned MEP Kinga Gál from Orbán’s Fidesz party, “the EU must first fulfil its promises to the Western Balkans, including Serbia [a close ally of Budapest].”

    If there was a book of negative world records, the Romanian State Railway Company (CFR) would certainly be breaking some of them. In a country cut in two by the Carpathian mountains, travel is difficult between the main regions, therefore rail transport is of strategic importance. However, the state-owned passenger transport system is falling apart.

    70 percent of the railway lines are in need of rehabilitation. The average speed of trains is less than 70 km/h – the same as 150 years ago. Three out of four trains are delayed. In 2022 alone, the total amount of delays accumulated was equivalent to eight years.

    Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán made an unexpected topless appearance in the local media: a civilian paparazzo in the seaside resort of Opatija, Croatia, caught him stepping out of the sea and into a luxury villa on the beach.

    The photo took the Hungarian public by surprise, but there were also more revealing details about Oban’s holiday. The footage was obtained by opposition journalist Balázs Gulyás, who revealed that the luxury villa belonged to the Ungár family, whose companies have won lucrative state contracts.

    The prime minister, whose father, children and son-in-law are known for their various businesses, was joined by members of his family. Also, he did not pay for accommodation and, according to official information, he was not even on holiday.

    It is not only the Prime Minister who is of interest in this case. One member of the hosting family, Péter Ungár, is a well-known figure in the Hungarian opposition to Orbán. The circle of influence appears to be closing.

    Romania has come to Ukraine’s aid after Russia broke a wartime shipping agreement that allowed the safe passage of grain via the Black Sea. 60 percent of Ukraine’s grain exports will now access the world markets through Romania.

    In August, Kyiv and Bucharest reached an agreement to increase the war-torn country’s grain exports and improve river, rail, road and maritime transit infrastructure, including border crossings.

    At the same time, Ukraine’s neighbour is acting as a transit country, because it has been protecting Romanian markets from Ukrainian grain imports, along with Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland. Last year before this ban, Romania bought 13 percent of Ukraine’s grain exports, worth $1.2 billion.

    This summer will be hot and bloody for bears in Romania. The last act of the outgoing minister of the environment, Barna Tánczos, was  authorising the shooting of 426 brown bears.

    Romania is home to 60 percent of Europe’s bear population (excluding Russia) with numbers of between 7,500 and 8,000. Deforestation, more agricultural areas, poor waste disposal and a changing climate contribute to the growth of the bear population.

    As the number of bears increases, so does conflict between humans and bears. Rising temperatures are also disrupting their hibernation patterns. The only official response is to order a bear hunt.

    “Rather than make this banner, I’d rather prepare a lesson. I can’t afford to go on strike and not get paid. But I can’t afford to not strike in the long term either.”

    These are the slogans held up by a teacher on strike for almost a month, showing the dilemmas faced by frontline workers in the Romanian education system.

    The majority of teachers are so underpaid they are forced to take second or third jobs. Often, they work as a maths or biology teacher in the morning, and deliver food on a bicycle in the afternoon. That is why the biggest teachers’ strike in 20 years, which involved 300,000 people, kicked off in May. The strike was halted in mid-June, when the government partially accepted the demands.

    Prison workers have also stopped work for higher pay, and health workers have gone on a Japanese strike in recent days, wearing a white stripe as a sign of protest.