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Opposition parties call for ‘safeguards for cultural freedom’

The freedom of culture must be guaranteed in Hungary, four opposition parties told a joint online press conference on Thursday.

Zsolt Greczy of the Democratic Coalition (DK) said the government-friendly “System of National Cooperation has overtaken the field of culture in the past 11 years… aiming to conquer the intellectual space and shape a new cultural elite by turning over all powerful positions to its own clientele.” Should the opposition come to power after the spring election, it will ensure “the current system will be overhauled in consultation with the sector.” Cultural policy should focus on talent and professional quality, he said.

Deputy House Speaker Koloman Brenner of Jobbik said the opposition committee for cultural affairs is proposing setting up an independent ministry of culture. The opposition will review the “excessive competencies” of the Hungarian Academy of the Arts, and restore institutions like the Office of Cultural Heritage, among others, he said.

Robert Halmai of the Momentum Movement said the new government would raise the wages of culture professionals by 30 percent, “especially for those working in small localities and local governments”. The government would restore their public employee status and other financial benefits, he said.

Istvan Hiller, the Socialist Deputy House Speaker, said the opposition would ensure the cultural sector’s independence from politics. Politics should provide a framework and opportunities, as well as funding, to culture, he said. At the same time, politicians should refrain from “determining what’s good”, and make sure that artists can work freely, he said.

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