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  • 0066 31 JANUARY – 6 FEBRUARY 2011

THE BUDAPEST TIMES

PM urges stronger Egypt-Hungary ties during Cairo visit

P rime Minister Viktor Orbán paid a four-day official visit to Egypt last week, flying from Cairo to Brussels on

Tuesday just before large-scale anti-govern- ment protests led to scenes of chaos in the

country. Orbán discussed strengthening Arab- Hungarian relations in a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak last Monday. “Egypt has a key role in maintaining stability in the region,” Orbán was quoted as saying after the meeting by Hungarian state

news agency MTI. “They want the EU to recognise this. They want ‘advanced status’ and Hungary supports this goal.”

Talking business

The prime minister subsequently met his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Nazif and expressed the belief that the euro will become a strong currency again. The previous day, Orbán and Hungarian Minister of National Economy György Matolcsy

took part in a business forum in Cairo. “We consider Egypt to be very stable and we have no concerns – politically conditions are suitable for a future of cooperation, businessmen from Hungary are still willing to invest and they trust that governments will protect contracts,” Orbán was quoted as saying by the English-language paper Daily News Egypt. He met religious leaders and unveiled a memorial plaque to the Hungarian “Golden Team” footballers Ferenc Puskás and Nándor Hidegkúti.

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Triumph or downfall of democracy?

Ronald Dworkin lecture at Central European University

I nfluential American academic

Ronald Dworkin addressed the

question “What is democracy?”

in a public lecture at the Central European University last Thursday.

Dworkin, a professor of law and philosophy at New York University, described the current situation in Hungary as a “modern problem of democracy” but stressed that because all his information was coming from The New York Times, The Guardian and The Washington Post rather than more direct sources, he would tell a made-up story about a country and ask whether it was describing the triumph or downfall of democracy.

Telling a tale

Dworkin selected for his tale a state on the way to a mature democ- racy with a free press and elections, a stable Constitution and basic rights that had been hit hard by the finan- cial crisis. And then, he imagined, a party gains a two-thirds majority in parliament through free democratic elections, changes the character of the nation and the media, makes decisions single-handedly and plans

BZT/Aaron Taylor
BZT/Aaron Taylor

Ronald Dworkin, a professor of law and philosophy at New York University, said that all indi- viduals should have their voices heard but that is not really achieved in a majority system.

to rewrite the Constitution. At the same time, the government remains popular with voters and would even get a slightly higher percentage of votes if an election were held now, he continued. Assuming that democracy means “governing by the majority, which has the right to legislate”, then that situation must be described as the

triumph of democracy because those in power are giving the people what they want, he said. However, it always depended on our under- standing of democracy. Dworkin outlined an alternative democratic concept, that of “partnership democracy”, meaning governing of the people for everyone in coopera- tion.

Democratic partnership

social contract theorists, all people are

treated equally, which contributes to the stability of the system, Dworkin said. It assumes that the best form of government is self-governance by the people for the people, whereby everyone has to bear the same burdens through political decisions. In that system the freedom of the press and freedom of speech of

everyone must be guar-

anteed.

On that

basis

the imaginary state described would be on

the way towards the total downfall of democracy, Dworkin said. Although he left

open the

question of

which of the two

The philosopher drew attention to the misconception that the opinion of the larger group in society is always the right one. If the majority has to decide

“who has to leave a lifeboat to save everyone else, then the decision will always be based on personal sympathy rather than the value of

that person for society”. From a moral perspec- tive history shows us that majority decisions are not always best, Dworkin said. However, the idea of political equality was better realised in a majority system. He pointed out though that

“When the flame of freedom goes out in the hearts of people, then nobody can relight it.”

– Ronald Dworkin

there are two aspects of equality: political influence, which differs from person to person and is also influenced by financial power, and political effect, which refers to the difference that an individual vote makes in an election and is close to zero. All individuals should have their voices heard but that is not really achieved in a majority system, he said. In a system of democratic partner- ship, which is a based on the work of

concepts is the right one, he noted that the concept of democratic partnership better ensures the freedom of rights, which he regards as crucial for every polit- ical system. He closed his speech with the warning that “when the flame of freedom goes out in the hearts of people, then nobody can relight it” and “terrible things happen”.

– Ines Gruber

Gov’t to unveil reform package on 28 Feb.: Matolcsy

EUR 2.2-2.4 billion in cuts on the table

T

he cabinet will

discuss

a

package of

economic reforms on 16 February and the measures would be made public at

another meeting on 28 February, Economy Minister György Matolcsy said last Thursday.

The “Growth and Stability Programme” would cut budget expenditure by an annual HUF 600 to 650 billion (EUR 2.19-2.37 billion) by 2013, Matolcsy said, a move which the minister said was necessary to keep the budget deficit below 3 per cent sustainably. Roughly half of the savings would be made in 2012, he said, while acknowl- edging the reforms would have to have an effect this year, too. Matolcsy said the wide-reaching, carefully planned structural reforms would put Hungary

on the “road to success”. However, the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) promptly slammed the govern- ment for reneging on a pre-election pledge that there would be no more austerity. “The minister for national economy has made it clear that the Fidesz-KDNP government is continuing the brutal cutbacks after imposing crisis taxes, raising pension contributions, accessing pension funds and introducing an unjust income-tax system,” spokesman Zsolt Török said.

Sziget saved

Budapest City Council and the organiser of the annual Sziget pop-music festival struck a deal last week over the rental of a huge site on Óbuda Sziget. The office of Mayor István Tarlós announced on Friday that the festival organisers will pay HUF 50 million (EUR 182,987) plus VAT to use the site, which has hosted the festival since the early 1990s free of charge. Recent press reports that the council planned to charge as much as HUF 2.5 billion (EUR 9.14 million) for the site had raised doubts over the future of one of Central Europe’s largest open-air festivals, which attracts thousands of visitors each August.

Unique flavours are something to get your teeth into

Fair of Hungarian Manufacturers’ Home Made Flavours

  • V isitors will be able to enjoy a real Hungarian flavour adven- ture trip next weekend at the

Fair of Hungarian Manufacturers’ Home Made Flavours. A large range of national produce representing traditional flavours will be brought together to sample and purchase, including a variety of hams, jams, sausages, cheeses, choco- lates, honey, wines and pálinka. Transylvanian goods from Hungarian producers across the border will also be represented as special guests.

Protecting traditions

of

This new fair is presented as part a mission to support national

manufacturers and to promote

Hungarian flavours so as to preserve them for future generations. Fair manager Krisztián Pap says the aim is to “bring back traditional Hungarian edibles to the shelves of every shop, to the shelves of closets, to the dining tables and to the list of favourites”. Visitors will be introduced to various specialities such as orda cheese, smoked venison and mangalica sausage (see page 14 for this weekend’s Mangalica festival), raspberry honey and a wide range of wines and pálinka. Purveyors of other traditional goods such as tea, coffee and chocolate will be present. With tons of chocolate consumed in the country every year, for example, the organisers are keen to support home producers so as to help fork back the

profits into the national economy. The fair will offer stalls of about 100 manufacturers, talks about tradi- tional products, a cooking show and children’s programs. Day tickets are HUF 1,900, with three-day passes available. Children under 12 go free.

– Bénédicte Williams

The ticket

Fair of Hungarian Manufacturers’ Home Made Flavours

11-13 February Fri 12-16, Sat 12-23, Sun 12-20

Millénaris B-building 16-20 Kis Rókus utca www.kezmuvesmagyarizek.hu

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