And why does she matter?
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been an outlier in the EU (a group Hungary joined during a hiatus of his leadership) for over a decade. His administration was the first to build a fence to refuse entry of refugees into the Schengen Zone and more recently, as a NATO member since 1999, his government refuses to send arms to Ukraine, or allow the shipment of arms from other countries across Hungarian territory.
The story of the 20-year friendship between Zsuzsa Hegedus, the thin, Jewish, chain-smoking, left-wing sociologist and the larger-than-life, right-wing Hungarian leader with a fondness for pork, reveals much about Orban’s thinking, his success, and the spell he casts on his admirers. He appointed her as his government’s adviser on social inclusion.
In July, Orban told an annual gathering of tens of thousands of admirers at Baile Tusnad in Romania:
“There is a world in which European peoples are mixed together with those arriving from outside Europe. Now that is a mixed-race world…And there is our world, where people from within Europe mix with one another… in the Carpathian Basin we are not mixed-race: we are simply a mixture of peoples living in our own European homeland.”
Two days later, Zsuzsa Hegedus publicly condemned Orban’s remarks as “a pure Nazi text, worthy of Joseph Goebbels” - Hitler’s propaganda chief. She resigned as his adviser on social inclusion, and a bruising exchange of letters followed. He said his remarks were misrepresented.
So, you might ask, what does this have to do with macroeconomics?
Hungary is not only one of Europe’s larger economies and geographically centrally located within Europe, but a member of both the EU and of NATA and, as such, in a position to, in conjunction with Orban’s close relationship with President Putin of Russia, apply leverage in the creation or blocking of policies promoted by the US, UK, Germany, France, etc. He is now embarked on a mission to promote his policies internationally.
As you read the news, it is important not only to evaluate the rhetoric you are listening to, but also ask yourselves why you are hearing it in the first place in unexpected places.