Most Hungarian believers are Christians and belong to the Roman Catholic Church. There are also many Protestants, mainly supporters of Reformed churches but also Lutherans, as well as smaller groups of Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists.
Under the Hungarian Communist regime (1949–1989), the churches were forced to be loyal to the People’s Republic and its leaders. In 1990, religious freedom was entered into the constitution, the state and church were separated and the state was prohibited from interfering in religious matters. Parliament decided in 1991 that the religious communities would regain all property seized during the communist regime.
The 2012 Constitution brought about major changes in the status of religious communities. The law was criticized by the Constitutional Court and, according to a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, it violated freedom of association or religion. Among other things, it was criticized for the fact that a large number of communities with special status that gave the right to tax exemption and to run schools, now lost their position because they did not meet new requirements, which have been operating in the country for 20 years. The fact that Parliament decides whether a society should be entitled to this particular social status has also been criticized.
The Times of Israel newspaper reported in 2018 that there were about 12,000 people who identified themselves as Jews in Hungary. But the numbers are uncertain: many are believed to have concealed their Jewish origin because of the very severe persecution suffered by Hungarian Jews, especially during World War II (see Population and Languages and Older History).
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Hungary, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Another hardship in the European Court of Justice
Hungary violated EU law on freedom of movement for capital when it introduced a law that restricts foreign contributions to individual organizations, the European Court of Justice has concluded. The law, which was introduced in 2017, requires the name of the donor to be published and that an organization that receives money over a certain amount each year registers as financed from abroad. Hungary argues, among other things, that the law counteracts money laundering, while critics believe it was created to silence opposition. In practice, the law is seen as directed primarily at contributions from Hungarian-born financier George Soros.
Coronal Act is replaced by Health Crisis Act
Parliament votes to repeal the abused law that allowed the government to control by decree during covid-19 pandemic (see 11 March, 30 March and 26 May). After that, the government is expected to formally withdraw the state of emergency due to social dangers that prevailed during the spring and formed the basis for the corona law. But Parliament now instead approves a law that allows the government to declare that health risks prevail, and that law also opens according to critics for governance through decrees, and this indefinitely.
Orbán play for Lukashenko
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visits Belarus President Lukashenko and calls on the EU to lift its remaining sanctions on the Minsk regime: arms embargo and travel bans and frozen assets for a number of people. Lukashenko calls Hungary its “leading partner in the EU who understands us like no other”. He also praised Orbán for the courage to visit during the ongoing pandemic. Belarus has 253 confirmed deaths in covid-19 and Hungary, with approximately the same population, has 542.
Bitter 100-year anniversary is noted
A silent minute, bell ringing, stagnant public transport and other markings are carried out when Hungary commemorates the centenary of the Trianon Treaty, which was concluded in Versailles in 1920 and drew the country’s new borders after the dissolution of the Austria-Hungary empire. Hungarian nationalists see it as a grief manifestation. Hungary’s 1900s borders have not only reduced territory but also groups of Hungarian speakers living outside the country.
Orbán takes one step back, on the paper
The Orban government proposes that the state of emergency introduced as a result of the corona pandemic be abolished, as is the severely criticized law that gives the government the right to govern by decree (see March 11 and March 30). But a number of decisions that have been made in the meantime will continue to apply, decisions that give more power to the government and reduce the influence of opponents. These include, among other things, that money for a fund against the corona crisis is taken from party support and from vehicle taxes that previously constituted municipal income (see April 4). This will weaken parties that are critical of the government, and the opposition will find it more difficult to govern municipalities where they are in the majority. At the same time, a bill is being considered that classifies large investments as special economic zones. It is primarily aimed at foreign companies that have invested in Hungary, and reduces the municipalities’ role as a contracting party. Agreements and regulatory oversight of such companies are lifted to the regional level.
Agreement with China secretly stamped
Parliament votes to keep the details of an important infrastructure contract confidential for ten years. The contract is for the modernization of the railway between Budapest and Belgrade, which is being implemented together with China and, for Hungary, is described as the country’s largest investment in infrastructure to date. Under the agreement with the state-owned Chinese bank Exim, Hungary will pay 85 percent of the construction through loans and the rest with its own funds. By extension, the connection will also be linked to the port of Greek Piraeus, which is operated by China. Business players who are close to Prime Minister Orbán are part of the project, whose critics have warned that the building may be plagued by corruption.
Hungary is losing transit camp targets
The EU court decides the case against Hungary which applies to Röszke at the Serbian border (see April 23) and it will be a hardship for the Hungarian government. The Court finds that migrants cannot be forced to stay in transit camps without having their asylum application individually tested, and that asylum seekers cannot be detained for more than four weeks. Hungary automatically denies asylum, and the Iranian and Afghan citizens who took their protest to court were forced to stay in Röszke for more than a year after being denied the asylum application. The government spokesman rejects the European Court’s judgment because the people “could leave the camp at any time in the direction of Serbia”, but a week after the verdict is announced that the camps will be closed. 280 people are moved to asylum shelters. At the same time, the Government stresses that applications for asylum can only be made through Hungary’s diplomatic missions abroad.
Roma are entitled to damages
About 60 Roma children in Gyöngyöspata in eastern Hungary are entitled to damages after being segregated from other pupils in an elementary school between 2004 and 2017. The Supreme Court decides on a lower court ruling. Ethnic segregation at school is illegal in Hungary, but still exists. In the present case, the students have been deprived of IT and swimming lessons. Prime Minister Orbán believes that instead of damages, students should have been compensated, but HD responds that this possibility is not in the law. The case has already previously led Orbán to announce a review of the tort.
Nordic criticism of Hungary’s ruling
The five Nordic countries, in a joint letter (supporting the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić), expressed concern about democracy in Hungary. The reason is the new crisis legislation that will expand Prime Minister Orbán’s power (see March 30). The letter leads to Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó calling on the Nordic ambassadors in Budapest and accusing the Nordic countries of spreading misgivings about Hungary.
Failed in democracy for Hungary
Hungary can no longer be classified as a democracy. The bad rating is given by the organization Freedom House, which is politically unbound but operates with the US as its base. The organization annually examines country by country how laws and authorities relate to factors such as freedom of speech, freedom of organization and popular influence. The new assessment of Hungary, described in 2005 as a pioneering country, is a “hybrid regime”: the country is on a gray scale between democracy and autocracy.
Parliament noble law against the abuse of women
The Hungarian Parliament refrains from ratifyingan international agreement intended to counteract violence against women: phenomena such as marital rape and genital mutilation. Instead, a government declaration is supported that the agreement would favor “destructive gender ideologies” and encourage illegal immigration. A majority of EU member states, including Hungary, signed the document called the Istanbul Convention 2014. But it will not be law until Parliament has approved it. The Fidesz Government believes that Hungarian law already provides adequate protection for women at risk of abuse, and dislikes that the Convention provides for the right to protection for people who risk persecution because of their gender or sexual orientation. Since Viktor Orbán became prime minister, Hungary’s constitution has been changed to exclude marriage between people of the same sex. The law has also been amended to prevent universities from teaching gender studies. The formal name of the Istanbul Convention is the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence.
EU lawyer criticizes border camps
Hungary’s decision to force asylum seekers to stay in a camp in Röszke on the Serbian border is to be considered illegal detention. The assessment is made by EU Attorney General Priit Pikamäe in a case involving four men from Afghanistan and Iran respectively. The men had made their way through Serbia, which also refused to allow them to return when they had been denied their asylum applications in Hungary. The case will be decided by the EU court, which usually makes the same judgment as the Advocate General.
Guest students are accused of spreading infection
Hungarian authorities announce that 14 Iranian students will be expelled. They are said to have violated corona-related quarantine rules, but critics claim it is an arbitrary process: Ever since March 3, when Hungary stopped issuing visas to Iranians, Viktor Orban’s government and government-run media have been running a campaign with the headquarters aimed at foreigners who accused of spreading infection.
Compulsory grants are introduced to the Corona Fund
Multinational companies, banks, parties and municipalities must contribute to a fund to finance crisis measures against the corona pandemic, the government announces, which is pushing to the equivalent of SEK 4 billion from the state budget. There will be both special taxes for companies and mandatory contributions to the fund. Municipalities are forced to waive portions of vehicle tax revenues and parties must waive half their public party support. The injunction is expected to be particularly noticeable for opposition parties with little funding, which have been fined on various grounds in recent years.
Hungary is brought before the European Court of Justice
Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic violated EU law when they refused to accept refugees in 2015, when unusually many refugees applied for Europe. This is what the European Court of Justice has concluded, and the three countries are now being fined. All three countries refused to follow a decision taken by the EU’s Migration and Home Affairs Ministers that the refugees should be distributed among EU member states. The intention was to reduce the pressure on reception in Greece and Italy (see December 7, 2017).
The power of the orb is extended
Parliament gives (with the votes of 137 for and 53 against) the Fidesz government the right to govern by decree (see 11 March). Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is thus granted the right to extend the state of emergency without asking Parliament for permission. The new law has been enforced against the background of the corona pandemic, but it contains no time limit. Anyone who disseminates “fake news” about the disease or measures taken can be punished by up to five years in prison, raising fears that mass media will not be able to report criticism to the government. Péter Jakab, leader of the opposition party Jobbik, comments on the new law: “It quarantines all of Hungary’s democracy.”
Closed borders against pandemic
Hungary closes its borders to all but its own citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Freight is to be passed through, but the truck queues will be long at border crossings. The government bans public events and limits opening hours for restaurants and cafes, which must close as early as the afternoon. A first death in covid-19 disease has been reported among 39 confirmed infected. Following pressure from neighboring countries, Hungary allows Bulgarian and Romanian citizens by car to pass to the home countries. The “humanitarian corridor” is kept open at night for motorists applying column driving (co-driving).
Demand for more power to Orbán
11th of March
An emergency permit is introduced with reference to the need for sharp action against the new corona virus that threatens public health and economy. Ten days later, a new bill can be read on the Hungarian Parliament’s internet site: a proposal that would give Viktor Orbán’s government the right to extend a state of emergency for an unlimited period of time, and in the meantime rule by decree. At present, the law requires that the extension of an emergency permit must be approved by the Members of Parliament. Other amendments are also proposed, such as imprisonment for those who violate quarantine rules. If two-thirds of parliamentarians vote in favor of the proposals, Orbán will have very far-reaching powers as prime minister.
More children should provide more forest
Prime Minister Orbán presents a climate plan when he talks about the state of the nation: for every child born, ten trees should be planted. According to Orbán’s calculations, it should increase Hungary’s forest area by 27 percent by 2030. He has previously described the plan as a Christian democratic way of addressing the global greenhouse effect. Orbán now also lists other measures planned: disposable plastic materials will be banned and Hungarian cities will have only electric buses in 2022.
New curriculum will be canceled
A new curriculum is presented. The Hungarian Teachers’ Union demands that it be withdrawn. The teachers point out, among other things, that authors with well-known anti-Semitic sympathies are on the literature list, while Nobel laureate Imre Kertész who survived the Holocaust was placed outside. In the subject of history, greater emphasis is placed on Hungarians deported to camps in the Soviet Union than on Hungarian Jews who were taken to Nazi extermination camps. Minister of Education Miklós Kásler responds that the next generation needs a curriculum characterized by “European Hungarian values”.
Fidesz remains suspended by conservatives
The Hungarian government party Fidesz will not be excluded from the EPP, the Conservative party cooperation at EU level. But EPP, which has previously been shut down by the party, also does not let Fidesz “into the heat”. The message is given by EPP chairman Donald Tusk. The Conservative and Christian Democratic parties included in the EPP dislike Fidesz’s handling of the Hungarian rule of law (see March 2 and March 20, 2019). Commentators have pointed out that an exclusion could give the impression that Fidesz is being treated badly by EU colleagues, and have the consequence that the negative attitudes of Hungary towards the EU are growing.
End of congestion money for prisoners
The Hungarian government has decided to no longer pay compensation to prisoners living in the conditions prevailing in the country’s prisons. According to the European Court of Human Rights, the overcrowded institutions are unacceptably crowded. Hungary has so far followed a 2015 ruling that criticized the situation, but Prime Minister Orbán believes it has now become a birthplace for lawyers to help interns recover damages. According to the government, about 12,000 cases have so far cost the Hungarian state the equivalent of SEK 315 million.
EU criticism against registration of associations
Hungary violated EU law through its demand for registration of individual organizations receiving financial assistance from abroad, believes the EU Attorney General: The laws, introduced in 2017, violate several EU principles, including freedom of association and the requirement for free movement of capital. The European Court of Justice, which is to judge the issue, does not have to follow the Attorney General’s judgment but usually does (see 13 July 2017 and 30 August 2017).
Test tube fertilization becomes free
Test tube fertilization will henceforth be performed free of charge at state clinics, announces Prime Minister Orbán. It is the government’s latest move to stop the Hungarian population decline. At the end of 2019, it was announced that the state will buy six private IVF clinics that offer assisted conception, four of which are in the capital, Budapest.