Anti-government protests in Hungary and Serbia

Last Saturday thousands of people once again took to Hungary's streets to protest against the national-conservative government. Triggered by a new labour law, the protests are also aimed at corruption and the dismantling of democracy. Serbia has also seen mass protests against the government in recent weeks. Protesters there accuse President Vučić of authoritarianism. Will the protests change a thing?

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Die Welt (DE) /

The EU should support young Eastern Europeans

There is now a new generation in all of Eastern Europe that wants to regain the liberal spirit of the post-communist era, Die Welt notes with enthusiasm:

“Nowadays many of the young protesters are saying: We must complete what our parents started. The potential for change is palpable - but unfortunately many of these young people want to migrate to the western states of the EU which better suit their ideals and where they can earn more. This is leading to a structural conservatism in Eastern Europe which is reinforced by the EU's plans to allocate less money there. Only more prosperity can permanently strengthen the reformist forces. Brussels should bear that in mind.”

Delo (SI) /

Vučić still firmly in the saddle

The protests against Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić won't loosen his grip on power, Delo believes:

“Even if it seems that Serbia is slowly rising up against Vučić he is firmly in the saddle. The majority of Serbs still believe he's a fair ruler. Through most of the media he controls, Vučić informs the people that salaries are rising, pensions are increasing, unemployment is falling, the dinar is gaining in value and Serbia is about to experience a golden era. The data telling us that Serbia is one of the least economically developed countries in Europe and one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and that it lags behind most other European states in terms of per capita income, does not fall on fertile ground.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

EPP betraying the demonstrators

The Süddeutsche Zeitung draws attention to parallels between Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán:

“They use their power to bring the media under control, to undermine the separation of powers and establish a system of favouritism. But that's not all they have in common: both are being protected by the European People's Party in their attacks on democracy. Orbán's Fidesz is a member of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, Vučić's Serbian Progressive Party is an associate EPP member. Orbán's support is needed to procure a majority, Vučić is supposed to lead Serbia into the EU. But if the end justifies almost all means, the EPP is betraying not only its own ideals but also all those who are taking to the streets in Belgrade and Budapest.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Toiling like immigrants

La Vanguardia notes that for workers in Hungary shutting out immigrant workers hasn't paid off:

“Thousands of Hungarians are taking to the streets to protest a law that allows employers to demand 400 hours of overtime a year, with payment deferred for up to three years. The value of labour is being cheapened in a country that is closed to immigration. Many Hungarians have been infected by the xenophobic discourse of Viktor Orbán. Now they are realising that it is they themselves who will have to work like immigrants who have just arrived in the country.”

Večer (SI) /

Middle class feels betrayed

The demonstrators in Serbia are also calling for their living conditions to be improved, especially since this is what Vučić promised in the election campaign, explains Večer:

“Vučić promised that he would be the voice of the silent, overlooked majority that is suffering the effects of the corruption and excesses of the former political leadership. But when he became president, his policies looked like those of Emmanuel Macron. For the most part, the people demonstrating against Vučić today are representatives of the middle class who, at least in theory, should favour such a policy. But it doesn't. And that's why some of them are wearing yellow vests. Vučić has subordinated almost all the media since he came to power, and there's not much evidence of a fight against corruption. Economic growth and the modernisation of Serbia are progressing at a snail's pace.”