China needed to pass through Europe. Hungary needed to bypass it. Here is the story of the Hungarian-Chinese partnership to renovate the Budapest-Belgrade railway route.
Faced with a dire economic outlook, the Orbán government undermined those best positioned to help — municipal governments.
Nervous for a Samsung investment, the Orbán administration used the COVID-19 pandemic to pass a decree and strip an opposition-led town of power and taxes.
A half-hour drive away from Budapest in the direction of Slovakia is the small town of Göd. A nostalgic retreat of the workers’ movement before 1989, the town — once known mostly for Red Meteor, a training complex with a decent Communist-era soccer club — is now the site of a USD 1.15 billion investment plan by Samsung to build one of the largest electric vehicle battery plants in Europe. The project was to bring a windfall of tax income to the municipality, which elected a new anti-government mayor in the fall. That changed a month ago, when the Orban government passed a decree to designate Göd as Hungary’s first Special Economic Zone, removing the plant from the town’s jurisdiction. Now, Samsung will pay commercial taxes directly to the county, which is pro-government.
On March 31, the Hungarian parliament voted to grant extraordinary emergency powers to its government, enabling the Orbán administration to rule by decree, and to jail anyone accused of distorting the truth for up to five years. The law passed without a sunset clause — it will remain in effect until the end of the pandemic, which will be up to the government to decide. With this, Hungary became the first country where a government used the pandemic as an excuse to infinitely expand its powers. The specifics of how these powers are used are important, because Hungary has been a testing lab for post-truth authoritarian regimes for years. Here is a review of what happened since then.