Let’s face it: Viktor Orbán is a fixation for many. Domestically and abroad, a large number of people, ranging from journalists and commentators to politicians and fonctionnaires in Brussels and the man in the street, bash or praise Orbán in an almost compulsive way practically every day. It is interesting to observe, for us who have escaped this addiction, that so many are seemingly unable to thrive without their daily dose of Orbán. As popular as a rock star and as much discussed and hated or adored as an international celebrity, his every move is watched, including where and when he holidays.
Because, horrors, Orbán, like most of us, also goes on holiday! And, how unheard of, does so every year, at least once, and that once is in the summer – a shocker!
For those who have bigger fish to fry than following closely Orbán’s every step, let me clarify: Croatia is Orbán’s preferred summer holiday destination, and has been for years. And interest in those holidays has remained unchanged over the years. Take this headline as an example from 2017: ‘Secret Details: This is How Viktor Orbán Holidayed in Croatia.’ Five years ago, the prime minister spent three weeks on the island of Krk, and, as reports ‘revealed,’ he often ‘sunbathed in the mornings and slept for hours in the afternoon.’ Astonishing, isn’t it? In 2018, he spent his summer vacation on the island of Vis, where according to the locals he behaved ‘modestly.’ That is suspicious, isn’t it? Perhaps the poor Croat had been intimidated or bribed into saying that, you never know with the likes of Orbán…
There was even more outrage than usual at the PM’s unacceptable habit of wanting to spend some leisure time by the sea in August 2020, when he was ‘spotted’ on a yacht off the island of Hvar. The reason why the PM was criticized was that in July, he had suggested that because of the pandemic, it was advisable to go for ‘less Adriatic Sea and more Balaton’ that year. Well, whether he did go to Croatia or not two years ago, the hoopla around the affair was definitely out of proportion. Then came the famous radio interview in which the PM remarked that if Hungary had a sea, we would have no problem importing LNG into the country, but we do not, because our seashore ‘was taken away from us.’ Although what Orbán said was factually accurate, the Croatian government and leftist media generated a lot of ado around his comment, and some press reports even suggested afterwards that restaurants in Croatia were unwilling to serve Hungarian customers for a while (this was rebutted by the Croatian state tourism agency.) In spite of the artificial outrage, Croatians seemed to be still happy to have their photographs taken with Orbán as they hosted him in their outlets.
This year, the unfriendly media has been obsessed with Orbán’s ‘unusually long’ holiday—in reality, three weeks, as has been the case for a long time. Liberal (“independent and objective”) commercial television RTL’s evening news program even asked the dramatic and at the same time rhetorical question: ‘Has Viktor Orbán Been on Holiday for Almost Three Weeks in a Row?’ Let that sink in, RTL meant. Almost. Three. Weeks. Another aspect of the premier’s holiday about which the media across the political spectrum has been unable to contain their excitement is Orbán’s facial hair. He has not shaved for three weeks, people! The prime minister of Hungary! And, on top of that, his beard is white! I sincerely hope that people will manage to get over the shock caused by Orbán’s beard sooner or later. (I have not had sleepless nights over it, but I should certainly not downplay other people’s susceptibilities.)
Well, in some luckier countries the media and the public get angry for somewhat more understandable reasons about their leaders’ holidays. In France, for instance, there is ‘fury as Macron jet skis on luxury break as France burns.’ On 11 August, ‘Emmanuel Macron was spotted enjoying himself during a holiday in the south of France, with the President pictured sunbathing and riding a jet ski while his nation reels from devastating wildfires.’ A naughty, naughty president indeed.
Or let’s take a look at European Union civil servants. They certainly have no reason to complain about short holidays, but there is little interest in their lavish benefits in that regard on the part of the ‘independent press’ in Hungary. As Politico recently reported, ‘EU fonctionnaires’ generous holiday entitlements are just another aspect of the over-privileged lifestyle enjoyed by people working in the ‘golden cage’ of the Union’s institutions.’ The employees working for various EU institutions have a lot of ’extras’ on top of the 24 to 30 days of holiday a year they are entitled to. For instance, they have the right to ’supplementary days off for a whole host of reasons, including moving house, going to a child’s wedding and to celebrate the fact that they have been working in the institutions for 25 years.’ Not to mention the fact that they can take many EU member states’ national holidays as well as Schuman Day off, and many make maximum use of the infamous ‘bridge’: ‘if there is a public holiday on a Thursday, for example, why bother coming in to work on Friday when in only 24 hours’ time it will be the weekend?’ In addition, ‘officials are also allowed to claim one-and-a-half-hours time off for every hour of overtime they work, which rises to two hours if they work on a public holiday or a Sunday.’ A real holiday bonanza, isn’t it?
But of course, overworked EU bureaucrats deserve long holidays; as opposed to government officials, who have offended many by being elected to their office four times in a row.