Hungary is located in the Danube river basin in
Central Europe. Hungary's cultural traditions range from
folk dance to classical music by masters such as Franz
Liszt and Béla Bartók. The country was hit hard by the
global financial crisis of 2008 and forced to make
unpopular cuts in the state budget. Growing unemployment
was accompanied by rising anti-Semitism and hostility to
the Roma. Under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Hungary has
become increasingly authoritarian and nationalistic
Brief profiles of Hungary, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Hungary, which on the surface is slightly
larger than Götaland, lies in the Danube basin
(Carpathian Basin) in the inland of
Central Europe. The Danube river forms a border with
Slovakia in the northwest before it turns south and cuts
straight through the country from north to south. The
river divides the capital Budapest in the old town of
Buda on the mountainous west coast and the
administrative and commercial center of Pest in the
The low-lying country consists of two-thirds of
plains. Only two percent of the land area reaches higher
than 400 meters above sea level, with Kékes in the
northern Mátra mountains as the highest peak (just over
1,000 meters). To the east of the Danube lies the Great
Plains (Alföld) which occupies about half of Hungary and
which was previously a vast steppe landscape, the
breath. Today it is largely cultivated and
constitutes the country's foremost agricultural area.
Through the Great Plain, the Danube's longest tributary
flows Tisza. In the northwest lies the Little Plain (Kisalföld).
To the west of the Danube are low mountains, which
are the foothills of the Alps. To the southeast of these
lies the lowland Transdanubia (Dunántúl) and Central
Europe's largest lake, Lake Balaton. On the northern
side of the lake the landscape is still hilly and houses
vineyards, on the southern side there are popular
seaside resorts. In Hungary there is also Europe's
largest hot water lake Hévíz, where the water keeps a
temperature of 30 degrees or more all year round.
Hungary has an inland climate with hot summers and
cold winters, as cool air from Russia draws in over the
country. The rainfall is slightly less than in other
Central Europe. Most of the rain comes in spring and
93 033 km2 (2018)
Adjacent country (s)
Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria,
Capital with number of inhabitants
Budapest approx. 1 800 000 (2015)
Other major cities
Debrecen 204 000, Szeged 163 000, Miskolc 160 000,
Pécs 146 000 (2015)
Kékes (1014 m asl)
Defamatory criticism of the EU's handling of Hungary
The human rights organization Fidh strongly criticizes the EU for its
inability to deal with the "serious deterioration of the legal situation" in
Hungary under Viktor Orbán's rule. The organization writes that the policies
pursued in Hungary under Fidesz put the EU's credibility to the test. Fidh
refers to how independent institutions in Hungary have been subordinated to the
government and how the constitution has been rewritten to unilaterally favor the
government party. The restricted media freedom and attacks on civilian movements
prevent them from reviewing the government's activities. Fidh writes that it is
"deeply worrying" that the EU is not using the tools available to do something
about the erosion of democracy and the lack of respect for human rights in
Setback for Orbán in Parliament
Prime Minister Orbán suffers a surprising defeat when he does not receive
Parliament's support for a constitutional extension that the EU should not be
able to force Hungary to accept foreign nationals. The proposal gets two votes
too little for the two-thirds majority required because right-wing extremist
Jobbik abstains. Jobbik demands that the government at the same time tear up an
opportunity for wealthy foreigners to buy themselves five years of residence
permit for 300,000 euros. That opportunity has been exploited by around 10,000
Chinese, as well as by wealthy investors from Russia and the Middle East.
According to Jobbik, some of these people pose a security risk.
Orbán is fighting in the EU
Viktor Orbán says he does not intend to make any new attempt to push through
a constitutional amendment on immigration stops. The fight against forced
overseas immigrants will henceforth be conducted directly at the EU headquarters
in Brussels, says the Prime Minister. He accuses the right-wing extremist Jobbik
of being transformed into "a bunch of soft guys" who go to Brussels instead of
The new border fence partially clear
A first stage of the new, technically advanced border fence against Serbia is
completed. The work has been carried out by prisoners, reports state TV. The
fence is equipped with heat and motion sensors and night vision cameras.
Jail for Syrian refugee
A Syrian refugee is sentenced to 10 years in prison and deported for
"terrorism". He is charged with stone-throwing and for having been raped with
the help of a megaphone in connection with dozens of migrants attempting to
enter Hungary in September 2015, the day after the border was blocked with razor
blades. The man, who has a residence permit in Cyprus, says he was just trying
to help his father and visually impaired mother across the border. Amnesty
International says the prosecution was based on "incredibly vague" evidence and
that the verdict is based on a sweeping and absurd definition of terrorism.
Clever result of referendum
More than 98 percent of those taking part in the referendum on EU refugee
quotas say no to Hungary to accept any refugees. But turnout is just over 40
percent, which in principle means that the vote cannot be considered valid.
While the opposition sees the widespread boycott of the vote as a failure for
Prime Minister Orbán, he himself says that the result is a great victory for his
policies and that Parliament will in any case decide that Hungary should not
receive any refugees through the EU. Orbán wants the refugee resistance to be
written into the Hungarian constitution. From the EU horizon, the Hungarian
referendum has no validity. Under the EU's quota system, Hungary is to receive
1,294 asylum seekers out of the 160,000 which, according to a previous decision,
should be distributed among the member states.
EU support for Nordic protest
The EU Commission supports the Nordic countries' protest (see 9
September) against Hungary refusing to take back asylum seekers
registered in Hungary. An EU delegation will travel to Hungary to discuss the
country's refusal to comply with the Dublin Regulation's rules on first asylum.
Hungary claims that Greece should take care of the refugees, but since 2011
Greece has been excluded from the Dublin Regulation because of the poor
conditions for refugees there.
The leading newspaper closes
Hungary's dominant opposition newspaper Népszabadság is closed down. The
owner Mediaworks refers to financial problems, but the journalists, opposition
politicians and activists suspect that the owners have been exposed to pressure
and threats from the government. Népszabadság has been one of the few media to
criticize the Fidesz government, and recently it accused two close associates of
Prime Minister Orbán of corruption. The newspaper also opposed the referendum on
refugee quotas. The Socialist Party describes the closure as a political revenge
on the part of the government, and nearly 2,000 people demonstrate outside the
editorial offices shouting "Out with Orbán". Even the right-wing party Jobbik
accuses Orbán of the closure and says he wants to take control of all the media.
Thousands demand press freedom
Up to 3,000 people are demonstrating in Budapest for increased freedom of the
press and protest against the closure of the newspaper Népszabadság.
Orbán's ally buys newspaper publishers
Opimus Press acquires Mediaworks magazine publisher, which owns the closed
newspaper Népszabadság. Opimus Press is owned and operated by people who are
known as close supporters of Prime Minister Orbán. The acquisition seems to
confirm the suspicions that the closure of the government-critical newspaper was
for political reasons.
Textbook pays tribute to Orbán
A new textbook in history for the high school raises outrage through its
tributes to Prime Minister Orbán. The book, which covers the country's history
since 1945, describes Orbŕn as "the founder of modern Hungary" and his portraits
appear in several places. A speech he made in 2015, warning of the "mass
immigration that threatens the homogeneity of Hungarian culture", is reproduced
in its entirety. Students will also learn that the country's right-wing policy
"protects historical values".
The Nordic countries are notifying Hungary to the EU Commission for their
refusal to take back refugees originally registered there but then gone
elsewhere. According to the Nordic Migration Ministers, Hungary's actions
violate the so-called Dublin Regulation that asylum applications should be made
in the first EU country where registration was made. The Nordic countries say
that they are ready to report Hungary to the European Court of Justice unless
the country complies with the rules.
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn says that Hungary should be
suspended from the EU or completely excluded for violating basic democratic
values and for treating refugees as "animals". He argues that if Hungary were
an applicant country now it would not have a chance to become a member. He also
refers to the limitations of media freedom and the independence of the
judiciary. He accuses Prime Minister Orbán of damaging the EU's reputation by
creating the impression that the Union cannot live up to the democratic values
the EU advocates outwards.
Call for voice boycott
22 human rights organizations urge the Hungarian people to boycott the
referendum on refugee reception on October 2. Several Hungarian opposition
parties also want voters to refrain from participating in the vote on whether
Hungary should accept the EU plan for a fair distribution of refugees within the
Union. The Hungarian government does not want to receive a single refugee and
has for a long time conducted intensive propaganda against refugees in general
and Muslims in particular. At least 50 percent of those entitled to vote must
participate in order for the voting result to be valid.
Orbán: Dump migrants on island
Prime Minister Orbán proposes that the EU create a camp on a remote island or
somewhere on the North African coast, where all migrants without residence
permits can be sent. The camp is to be financed by the EU and guarded by armed
personnel. In the camp, the refugees should then be able to apply for a
residence permit in any EU country, the Prime Minister believes. He later
clarifies to point out the Libyan coast as a suitable place for "a gigantic
refugee city". It only assumes that Libya agrees and gets a new government that
can conclude a cooperation agreement with the EU.
Award causes protests
At least 44 cultural and social figures are returning the high state order
they have been granted in protest of a notorious racist being rewarded with the
same words. The journalist Zsolt Bayer is awarded one of Hungary's finest awards
for his work for the victims of communism, but he is best known for anti-Semitic
statements and gross violations of the Roma, which he, among others, compared to
animals. He stands close to Prime Minister Orbán and is one of the founders of
an organization that organized mass demonstrations in support of the government.
In 2013, the right-wing magazine Magyar Hírlap was sentenced by the Hungarian
Press's opinion committee to be fined approximately SEK 8,000 for publishing
anti-Roman chronicles by Bayer.
A new border fence is planned
Prime Minister Orbán says a new fence will be built along the border with
Serbia, in addition to the razor-lined fence that is already there. The new
"more robust" fence will be equipped with the very latest technology and will be
strong enough to withstand the "hundreds of thousands" of people who might
emerge at the border if Turkey terminates the refugee agreement with the EU.
"The border cannot be defended with flowers and stuffed animals," Orbán
Prison for right-wing terrorists
A right-wing extremist who has been at the forefront of an armed militia is
sentenced to 13 years in prison for terrorism. Among other things, he has thrown
gas bombs against the homes of left-wing politicians. 14 of his assistants are
sentenced to between ten months and twelve years in prison. The trial has been
going on for five years. The defendants have been strongly supported by the
right-wing parliamentary party Jobbik.
Refugees are imprisoned
Ten migrants are sentenced to imprisonment for between one and three years
for having entered the country illegally in connection with unrest at the border
in September 2015. They must be expelled.
Media campaign against refugees
The government is launching a broad media campaign against refugees and
immigrants. At a number of points under the common heading "Did you know...",
allegations of crimes committed by refugees in Europe are being erased. The
campaign is on the government's website for the time being, but will be
distributed to newspapers, radio and TV and public billboards in the coming
weeks. Prime Minister Orbán claims that there is an "obvious" link between
migration and terrorism. The government is also campaigning for the referendum
even among ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries, as their votes are
needed. For the referendum to be approved, at least half of the eligible voters,
including ethnic Hungarians in other countries, must participate.
Orbán supports Trump
Viktor Orbán will be the first EU leader to openly support Republican Donald
Trump in the US presidential election in November. He says that it is above all
Trump's promise to severely restrict immigration, especially from Muslim
countries, which has led him to take a stand.
Parliament increases the government's power
Parliament votes several amendments to the Constitution. Among other things,
the government is given increased powers to announce emergency permits to
counter a possible terrorist attack by increasing the surveillance of society
and deploying the army within the country's borders. The opposition believes
that there is a risk that the government may abuse its increased power.
Referendum on refugee plan
The Supreme Court approves the government's plans to hold a referendum on the
EU plan, which means that all member states should be forced to receive a
certain number of refugees.
EU report on discrimination against Roma
The European Commission is launching a formal investigation into allegations
that the Hungarian authorities are systematically discriminating against Roma
schoolchildren. The Hungarian government is given two months to do something
about it, otherwise the case can be brought before the European Court of Human
Rights. A government spokesman says the issue is unreasonable, as it would be
against the law to keep track of which children are Roma.
Crisis loan repaid
The central bank announces that the loan of around EUR 20 billion that the
country was forced to take during the 2008 financial crisis has been fully
repaid. The loan was granted jointly by the IMF, the EU and the World Bank (see
also Financial overview).
The president goes against Orbán
President Janós Áder refuses to approve a law to transfer the equivalent of
approximately EUR 650 million from the Central Bank to educational foundations.
Áder says that the law violates the principle of transparency in public
operations. Critics have argued that the educational foundations serve as a
cover for allies to the government. The law text is passed on to the
Constitutional Court, which a few weeks later also refuses it.
Manifestation against Orbán
Around 20,000 people demonstrate in Budapest against Viktor Orbán's
government. The protesters demand an apology from Orbán for "the people who have
been humiliated over the last six years".
Free hands for the government
Parliament adopts a law that gives the government the right to decide on new
public spending without obtaining Parliament's approval. Under the new law, the
government also does not have to report on how the expenditure is to be
financed. The decision is seen as yet another step for Prime Minister Orbán to
strengthen his power at Parliament's expense and to reduce transparency in the
The government warns against immigrants
The government is launching an internet site claiming that there are so many
immigrants living in more than 900 places in Europe that the governments of the
countries have lost control of them. Among other things, parts of Stockholm are
mentioned. The website is part of the government's campaign ahead of the
referendum later this year on the EU plan for the distribution of immigrants
among all member states.
Protests against school reform
Thousands of people are demonstrating against the government's changes in
school work. The demonstrating teachers, who are supported by trade unions also
from other professional groups, object, among other things, to the state control
of education and the introduction of new textbooks which, according to them, do
not hold a sufficient scientific level.
Referendum on refugee quotas
Prime Minister Orbán says that Hungary will hold a referendum on EU quotas
for mandatory refugee reception in all 28 member states. He says that none other
than the members of the Hungarian Parliament can force the Hungarian people to
live with non-Hungarians. Orbán has strengthened his popularity in the country
through his hard-line rhetoric against the refugees from the Middle East and is
expected to push this policy until the 2018 elections. He does not say when the
referendum will be carried out. A spokeswoman for the European Commission says
it is "incomprehensible" how the Hungarian government can think that a
referendum on refugee management is consistent with the decision-making process
laid down by the EU treaty.
Hungary is dotted by the European Court of Justice
The European Court of Human Rights convicts Hungary of a 2011 law on the
police's right to monitor suspected terrorists. The Court considers that the law
is so widely formulated that in practice it permits the monitoring of virtually
anyone, including house searches and data collection. The Hungarian state has
three months to appeal.
Fear of environmental disaster
All 15 prosecutors are acquitted after the trial of Hungary's worst
environmental disaster (see Natural Resources and Energy) that killed ten people
and injured 150 when large amounts of toxic substances came out in nature in
2010 after a dam burst at an aluminum plant. The court finds that the
defendants, including the then director of the agency, could not be charged for
negligence because the accident was due to "lack of stability in the ground".