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Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen. Photo supplied

Diplomatic row between Hungary and Sweden escalates

Hungary’s ambassador to Stockholm, Adrien Muller was summoned to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen called Sweden’s Minister of Social Affairs Annika Strandhall a “poor, sick creature”.

Published: February 23, 2019, 10:04 am

    The diplomatic row that started a week ago, has been escalating after Strandhall suggested that the Hungarian prime minister, who she said seeks to promote the birth of “more true Hungarian” babies, was a “right-wing populist trying to obscure the consequences of those policies to the independence women have fought for”.

    On Friday, Swedish ambassador Niclas Trouvé was summoned to the MFA. One day later, Hungarian Secretary of State for Family and Youth Affairs, Katalin Novak sent a letter to Strandhall, demanding an apology.

    Hungary’s Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen was discussing Strandhall’s remarks in a tv programme called Bayer Show, with well-known pro-government journalist Zsolt Bayer. Semjen called the Swedish minister a “poor, sick creature” and rejected her opinion as “aberration”.

    An officer of the Swedish MFA’s press service, Vilhelm Runquist confirmed to SVT that Hungary’s ambassador to Stockholm has been summoned to the MFA. The meeting will take place on Wednesday morning.

    The press secretary of Foreign Minister Margot Wallström told Sveriges Radio that Semjen’s words were “unacceptable”. In a tweet, Strandhall complained that political disputes should be handled by dialogue instead of personal attacks.

    Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto told Echo TV‘s morning programme on Thursday that Sweden’s government is pro-migration but Hungary doesn’t support migration. He added that Sweden’s government wants to spend the money of Swedish citizens on accepting and supporting migrants, while the Orban government spends money on Hungarian families.

    Szijjarto stressed that different opinions are not valid reasons to compare Hungary to Nazi Germany.

    He said that the MFA told Sweden’s ambassador that Swedish politicians should refrain from making unacceptable Nazi accusations. According to Szijjarto, by summoning Hungary’s ambassador to Stockholm, the Swedish government wanted to take revenge.

    Szijjarto said that “Hungary spends money on families rather than migrants”.

    The minister stressed that Hungary’s government is not interested in escalating the tension with Stockholm, they just want to protect Hungary. “We have made it clear years ago that Hungary is nobody’s punching bag,” he added.

    On the topic of the government’s family protection action plan, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio in an interview on Friday that most Europeans lived their lives in a traditional way, putting a premium on the family.

    “But strange people who choose a strange lifestyle reject the current government proposals,” he said, adding such people should “keep their opinions to themselves” rather than attacking the government. He said “the vast majority of people” backed measures to help families and added that this was a matter of a national consensus.

    In President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation address before a joint session of Russia’s bicameral legislature, his focus was also devoted family policy, following in the footsteps of the Hungarian leader.

    Putin was expanding on the practical implications for the Russian population of the policy priorities for his current six-year term that he set out in decrees of May 2018. These have been national projects centred around support to families to encourage child-bearing in order to stabilize Russian national demographics.

    It includes housing construction and financing, infrastructure development, improved health services and upgrading public education.

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