On 13 February, POLITICO Europe ran a piece about the Hungarian and Polish ambassadors attending a celebration of the 44th anniversary of the Iranian revolution in the capital city of Tehran, an event where President Ibrahim Raisi of Iran was also present. According to photographs obtained by the news site, Zoltán Varga-Haszonits and Maciej Fałkowski were the only two diplomats from EU nations to attend. Other countries withheld their delegations to show their opposition to the Ayatollah regime’s brutal response to street protests breaking out in the summer of 2021, and sporadically ongoing since.
The article goes on to describe Hungary as a country that ‘earned a reputation as the EU’s black sheep under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’, and draws a parallel between the current Iranian affair and the Orbán administration’s supposedly softer approach to Vladimir Putin and Russia in the ongoing war. Continuing the same line of thought, the author expresses his surprise that Poland, one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters in the Eastern European conflict, also would take part in Iran’s celebrations, given the fact the Middle Eastern nation is suspected to have sold ballistic missiles to Russia. However, he also calls the Polish government ‘nationalist’, almost certainly considered a derogatory term in his vocabulary, and points out that both they and Hungary are ‘often at odds with its EU partners on matters big and small’.
POLITICO does get the basic facts of the story correct. Ambassadors Varga-Haszonits and Fałkowski from Hungary and Poland, respectively, were in fact the only two European diplomats at the celebration in Tehran. However, only a few days before, the Iranian Embassy in Vienna, Austria also held a reception to commemorate the Iranian revolution. The photographs of the event posted on Twitter by the Embassy show a packed house. Many of the attendees were ‘political, economic and cultural figures from Austria and Slovakia’, according to the reporting by the local Vienna news site Vindobona.org.
In the meantime, German exports to Iran increased by 12.7 per cent year on year.
The value of the total export goods rose to €1.5 billion in the time period between January and November 2022. That exceeds the €1.4 billion of goods sold in the whole calendar year of 2021. These figures were published by the German Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt). The German government has also faced some backlash from its own citizens for their lacklustre response to the death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman. Mahsa Amini passed away while being held in the custody of the local ‘religious police’ for not wearing her hijab outside in October 2022. Some German residents expected a harsh response from their politicians, especially since Germany has professed to pursue a so-called ‘feminist foreign policy’.
Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó sent a message of congratulation to his Iranian counterpart on the occasion of the anniversary, POLITICO reported in its article based on a press release on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website. They also added that Iran claims to have received similar messages from Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia as well.
Hungary is often attacked in the Western press, at times for even pettier issues. Last week, British freelance EU correspondent Jack Parrock sent out a tweet claiming that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the only one not applauding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a photo op at the Special European Council Meeting in Brussels, Belgium. The tweet received significant traction, despite the fact the video shared with it contradicted the very claim it made. The footage showed Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis not clapping either while President Zelenskyy walked the red carpet—not that this should be considered a major scandal in international politics…