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Orban’s “Greater Hungary” scarf prompts anger and sarcasm among neighbours

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Budapest, Hungary – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s latest provocation has not gone down well among its neighbours.

Anger has been growing since Orban posted a video of himself at a football match wearing a scarf featuring a map of Greater Hungary – i.e. the country’ historical, imperial pre-World War I borders – which includes territories that are today part of Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia.

Across Central and Eastern Europe, governments have accused the Hungarian PM of revisionism and mindless nationalistic provocation.

Ukraine, itself in the midst of a war waged by Russia partly on the grounds of historical territorial ambitions, reacted swiftly.

“The promotion of revisionism ideas in Hungary does not contribute to the development of Ukrainian-Hungarian relations”, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said, asking “for an official apology from the Hungarian side and a refutation of the encroachments on the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

Romania’s Foreign Ministry also expressed “its firm disapproval of the gesture” and stated that “any revisionist manifestation, no matter what form it takes, is unacceptable”.

In Austria, the reaction was somewhat more sarcastic. “A quick glance at historical maps in the Viennese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed initial suspicions, according to which Translithania (the Kingdom of Hungary) ceased to exist 100 years ago”, a ministry spokesperson told Politico. “We will inform our Hungarian neighbours of this development at the earliest opportunity.”

Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Rastislav Káčer meanwhile called the stunt “disgusting”. “We perceive this gesture in the context of events that are developing and happening. It is the tip of the iceberg and a moment that had to be reacted to”, he said.

The head of Aliancia, one of Slovakia’s Hungarian minority parties, also warned that the incident “will amuse some, upset others. However, both reactions can turn against us, Hungarians living in Slovakia”.

“Unity and cooperation between EU countries are now crucial. The provocation by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is unacceptable”, Czech counterpart Jan Lipavský doubled down, while Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the topic would likely be discussed during the upcoming V4 summit.

In a Facebook post earlier this week, Orban dismissed the controversy without explicitly referring to it. “Football is not politics. Let’s not see what is not there. The Hungarian national team belongs to all Hungarians, wherever they live!”.

Hungary lost about two-thirds of its territory after the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, a loss that is still considered a national tragedy by many parts of the population.

Today, about two million ethnic Hungarians still live in neighbouring countries, a vast diaspora at the heart of regular clashes between Budapest and its neighbours.