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Katalin Novak; Annika Strandhall. Wikipedia

Hungary summons Swedish ambassador after spat over pro-family law

Hungarian Secretary of State for Family and Youth Affairs, has addressed a letter to Swedish Minister for Social Affairs after the left-wing politician compared Hungary’s pro-family action plan to Nazi Germany.

Published: February 17, 2019, 10:50 am

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    Budapest

    Katalin Novak wrote a letter Annika Strandhall, published by Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap on Saturday, in which Novak “firmly rejected” Strandhall’s accusations.

    Strandhall tweeted on Monday that Hungary’s “alarming” policies were “reeking of the 1930’s”. She suggested 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”.

    Novak said she was “shocked to learn that on Twitter you claimed that the family protection action plan announced last Sunday by Prime Minister Viktor Orban recalls Germany’s thirties, and that our government exploits Hungarian women.

    “We respect the decision of the Swedish government that you consider the integration of immigrants and their family reunification a top priority and that migration is your answer to the demographic challenges,” she added.

    Novak noted that “even if we do not share your approach, we respect the right of Swedish citizens to democratically choose their political leaders and the government’s freedom to take internal decisions in a democratic way. That is what we offer and require from our partners”.

    Novak continued: “In Hungary, we believe in strong families as the basis of our community. We have driven family-friendly governance and gained two-third parliamentary majority three times in a row at democratic general elections. Hungarian citizens have many times expressed they will and entitled us to stop illegal migration at our borders, not to let in a mass of economic migrants but instead empower Hungarian women and men to be able to have as many children as they wish to and have them as soon as they wish to.”

    In her letter, Novak insisted that Strandhall apologises for her meddling remarks.

    Your Excellency, Minister Stradhäll,
    I was shocked to learn that on Twitter you claimed that the family protection action plan announced last Sunday by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recalls Germany’s thirties, and that our government exploits Hungarian women.
    As Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs of Hungary, I firmly reject your accusations. It is also unusual and unfriendly that a European government’s member condemns another European government for its internal policies in such a way and style without at least getting informed and using the traditional diplomatic channels before.
    First of all, let me congratulate that after four months of struggle, you could lately form the Swedish government.
    I am aware of the ideological differences between us, concerning among others the different responses our countries give to the demographic crisis affecting Europe. We respect the decision of the Swedish government that you consider the integration of immigrants and their family reunification a top priority and that migration is your answer to the demographic challenges.
    Statistical data show that promoting family reunification increases the number of asylum seekers, which raises additional human rights concerns, such as the expectedly long duration of family reunification in Sweden in 2018.
    I am also aware that your government just decided to extend the border control by three months because of the continuing threat to internal security in Sweden.
    I have also read that the Swedish Employment Agency compiled a report that, in five years, the skilled labour shortage will be about 100,000 people, especially in health care, IT sector and education.
    We follow the processes in your country and even if we do not share your approach, we respect the right of Swedish citizens to democratically choose their political leaders and the government’s freedom to take internal decisions in a democratic way. That is what we offer and require from our partners.
    In Hungary, we believe in strong families as the basis of our community. We have driven a family-friendly governance and gained two third parliamentary majority three times in a row at democratic general elections. Hungarian citizens have many times expressed they will and entitled us to stop illegal migration at our borders, not to let in mass of economic migrants but instead empower Hungarian women and men to be able to have as many children as they wish to and have them as soon as they wish to. That is why we have introduced series of pro-family measures which are highly supported by Hungarians. Our intention is to give the freedom of choice for Hungarian women and men.
    It is unacceptable that you compare Hungary to the Nazi Germany. I reject this firmly in the name of our country.
    Your Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at a conference said that the most important issue in the May EP elections will be the fight against right-wing extremism and nationalism. He also mentioned that European social democrats are able to stop these extremists. I’ll add that Hungary has been mistakenly cited as being an extremist country.
    I hope that the social democrats will be able to filter out the far-right allies at least in their own house. I draw your attention to the fact that the European ally of your party, the Hungarian Socialist Party, is cooperating closely with Jobbik, the extremist far-right party of Hungary.
    A member of parliament from the far-right Jobbik who is today their parliamentary group leader, Márton Gyöngyösi, caused scandal a few years ago with this remark: ‘It is timely to list people of Jewish ancestry who live here, and especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian Government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary’. In an interview, Gergely Karácsony, the former prime ministerial candidate of the Socialist and Dialogue for Hungary coalition, who is also currently running for mayor of Budapest also with the support of your political allies, said it is not nazism to draw a list of MPs who are Jews. You might be seriously concerned about these processes happening around your political allies.
    In case you are interested in Hungary’s family policy and the measures of the new action plan, I am ready to present them personally or via a detailed document to you. Our Ambassador in Stockholm is also easy to reach for information.
    Meanwhile, I ask you to express your criticisms about Hungary in the spirit of mutual respect, and to clarify your position on the question of whether the European Socialists, in your opinion, are doing the right thing when cooperating with the Hungarian left-wing parties that are building a coalition with the extreme right-wing party Jobbik.
    Until then, I insist that you apologize for what you have said.
    Yours sincerely,
    Katalin Novák
    Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs
    Ministry of Human Capacities
    Vice President of FIDESZ – Hungarian Civic Union

    Strandhall was also asked whether she was concerned about the co-operation between the Hungarian socialists and the right-wing Jobbik party.

    Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto responded on Thursday that “Hungary spends money on families rather than migrants”. On Friday, Swedish ambassador Niclas Trouvé was summoned to the MFA.

    At a press conference, Szijjarto said Strandhall had used an “unacceptable” tone in her tweet and that the Swedish ambassador had been told at the ministry that Strandhall’s comments, too, were unacceptable.

    Szijjarto said the ambassador had taken note of Hungary’s stance and promised to convey it to Stockholm.

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