Hungarian Opinion Weeklies on 20 Years in the EU and the Run-Up to the EU Elections

  • 7 May 2024 5:14 AM
  • BudaPost
Hungarian Opinion Weeklies on 20 Years in the EU and the Run-Up to the EU Elections
Left-liberal authors disapprove of the government’s confrontational attitude towards the European Union, while their pro-government colleagues hope that the June elections will produce a new political order in Brussels.

In Heti Világazdaság, István Riba gives a generally positive assessment of Hungary’s EU membership with one caveat – namely that in terms of living standards Hungary is second from bottom, just ahead of Bulgaria. He finds it important that over the past 20 years, being European has become part of most Hungarians’ identity. The ratio of citizens who regard themselves as both Hungarian and European has risen from 33 to 64%, with a further 11% choosing the option ’European and Hungarian’.

In Magyar Narancs Péter Heil, the chief EU expert of the Democratic Coalition, accuses the government of turning its back on key European values. In a long article, he writes that if Hungary sought EU membership today, her application would certainly be rejected. As a result, he adds, the European Union is withholding at least two thirds of the funds due to Hungary. Relations with Brussels can only improve, he believes, once Hungary gets rid of its incumbent government.

In Élet és Irodalom, former left-wing Foreign Minister and European Commissioner Péter Balázs dismisses the Prime Minister’s announced intention to ’occupy Brussels’ as fully unrealistic. His radical right-wing allies, he argues, will not conquer any top positions within the European Union as a result of the elections to be held in June.

A different government, Balázs claims, might use Hungary’s role as the rotating president of the Union in the second half of the year to improve the country’s standing within the community, but Mr Orbán and his cabinet have too many conflicts behind them to do so.

In Magyar Hang, János Reichert suggests that Fidesz can realistically hope to win another resounding victory in the European Parliamentary elections. He dismisses as mendacious the argument of the government that Fidesz is the only possible option for voters who want peace in Europe, but concedes that such slogans may well have an impact.

He also believes that the 50,000 activists the ruling party plans to mobilise in its campaign represent a huge advantage vis-à-vis the opposition. He suspects that such activists will be paid for their job.

On the pro-government side, in Mandiner, MEP Ernő Schaller-Baross attributes the deterioration of relations between leading EU bodies and Hungary to a change of attitude within the leadership of the Union. Decision-makers in Brussels, he claims, have forgotten that it is the task of the European community to serve the member countries rather than vice versa. He finds it advisable for European voters to promote the victory of forces that reject war and illegal immigration, while promoting the causes of nations rather than the interests of Brussels.

In Hetek, the weekly of the Congregation of the Faith, the only large Protestant evangelist denomination in Hungary, Péter Morvay believes that over the past two decades, instead of promoting equal rights, economic stability, and peace, the European Union has started sanctioning member states for ideological reasons, in addition to ’serving external interests’ and trying to infinitely broaden its own sphere of competence.

European citizens have a possibility to express their opinions on these issues once every five years and should now avail themselves of that opportunity, he concludes.

In his Demokrata editorial, András Bencsik claims that influential European leaders are bracing themselves for a Third World War or at least a brutal military crisis that might lead to an all-European conflagration. Most people are in favour of ’normality’, he continues, and Hungary has proven over the past 14 years that this perspective can win a political majority by democratic means.

As one sign of ’normality’, he mentions Chinese President Xi Jinping’s imminent visit to Hungary.

A semi-official assessment of Hungary’s 20 years in the EU

A leading government official urges serious changes in the European Union to make the community successful again.

On Index, cabinet minister Balázs Orbán, who serves as Political Director in the Prime Minister’s office, draws five conclusions from the two decades since Hungary joined the European Union. 1. He believes the 2004 enlargement with ten countries joining the community was the Union’s last successful project.

Since then, he writes, the EU has been losing ground. 2. The EU, he adds, has become Hungary’s natural environment and EU membership opened new development opportunities for Hungary. 3. Hungary, he complains, has found that traditional condescending western attitudes haven’t disappeared with EU membership over the past decades. 4.

Europe is lagging behind other regions of the world in terms of economic growth, and would be well advised to seek partnerships with other parts of the globe, he suggests, without mentioning either China or Russia by name. 5. We should save Europe – and ourselves! he exclaims.

If the European ship sinks, we will sink with it, he warns. We should keep the lifeboats ready, he adds, but must keep in mind that small vessels are unsafe. He therefore recommends  ‘sacking the captain’ – and ‘taking back control over our continent and our future’.

Hungary’s 20 years within the European Union

Commentators try to assess the lessons of two decades of EU membership.

On the Mandiner website, Mátyás Kohán dismisses as groundless opposition-inspired accusations that the government intends to lead Hungary out of the European Union. EU membership has become irreversible, he writes, adding that being surrounded by Union member countries, with the rest of the region aspiring to join, it would be suicidal for Hungary to leave the European Union. Hungary is often unfairly treated by EU decision-makers, he suggests but adds that its representatives must learn to be smarter in negotiating and finding allies to get the treatment the country deserves.

On Telex, Fruzsina Előd and Ferenc Bakró-Nagy recall that 20 years ago most Hungarians hoped that as a member of the European Union the country would swiftly catch up with Austria. That didn’t materialise, nevertheless, 74% of Hungarians still see EU membership as having a positive impact on Hungary’s development.

The authors produce 11 charts to show that Hungary has fared worse than its neighbours in terms of several economic indicators, including per capita consumption. Nevertheless, the happiness index of Hungarians has surpassed the European average and in that particular indicator, they write, Hungary might catch up with Austria in another 20 years’ time.

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