“The government is not a history club,” said Tibor Navracsics, brushing aside a question about attempts to rebury controversial Hungarian author Jozsef Nyiro, in an interview with commercial television channel ATV aired on Wednesday.
Attempts to revive the memories of Nyiro, a lawmaker under the fascist regime of WWII Hungarian leader Ferenc Szalasi, and Miklos Horthy, regent between 1920 and October 1944 – in Nyiro’s case with a religious ceremony attended by Hungary’s speaker of parliament in Romania, and in Horthy’s case with the placement of statues in his honour in several villages – have been on the receiving end of sharp criticsism from Jewish groups and politicians at home and abroad who worry about rising anti-Semitism.
Navracsics said the government was not preoccupied by the question.
“I don’t want to do the work of a historian,” he said. “I did not get my mandate from the electorate to unravel the mysteries of the Hungarian past.”
Navracsics was also asked about the recent case of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights fining the Hungarian state 6,400 euros for having punished a man who wore the five-spangled red star, the symbol of the Communist dictatorship, in public. He said the issue was primarily political, and so it was right that the fine should be paid out of the funding pot for the country’s political parties.
“Here is a person – and there could be such a person in the future, too – who committed a crime. The Strasbourg court thinks, however, damages should be paid to him,” Navraciscs, who is also the justice minister, said.
Parliament approved on June 25 a ruling Fidesz and Christian Democrat proposal to divert state monies from political parties to pay the fine.
The court on March 8 ruled that Hungary was wrong to fine Janos Fratanolo, former chairman of the Hungarian Workers’ Party 2006, for wearing the red star during a television interview back in 2007.
Hungary argued that the televised appearance gave public exposure to one of the symbols of tyranny, which is illegal according to Hungarian law.