20 Years Ago HU Joined EU: "Europe Made Stronger by Hungarians"

  • 2 May 2024 7:28 AM
  • Hungary Matters
20 Years Ago HU Joined EU: "Europe Made Stronger by Hungarians"
The people of Hungary have made Europe stronger; their vibrant culture and economic dynamism rippled through the entire EU, the president of the European Commission said, marking the 20th anniversary of Hungary's EU accession.

“Twenty years ago today, our family was finally united in a common home. Hungary has always been at the heart of Europe,” Ursula von der Leyen said in a video address on social media. But behind the Iron Curtain, she said, generations of Hungarians had fought bravely to reconquer their freedom.

“Twenty years ago you chose to reclaim your rightful place at the centre of our continent. You chose Europe,” the EC president said. Europe has grown stronger ever since, she said, adding that Hungary had also flourished in countless ways with new schools, hospitals and highways built and home-grown renewable energy developed mostly with the help of EU funding.

She noted the two Nobel Prizes Hungarian scientists won last year. “Katalin Karikó’s discoveries helped develop the mRNA vaccines that helped beat Covid and saved countless lives.

And Ferenc Krausz brought us closer to understanding how matter around us is made,” she said, adding that “both prizes are the result of Hungarian ingenuity”. “We are stronger together. Happy anniversary and long live Europe!” said von der Leyen.

Govt Official: 'This Isn’t the Kind Of EU We Dreamt About'

Hungary’s twenty years of EU membership can be summed up by saying that “this is not the kind of European Union we dreamt about,” a state secretary of the prime minister’s office said, marking the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s accession to the bloc.

Csaba Dömötör said in a video on Facebook that 20 years ago many had felt that after a 20th century beset by tragedies, EU membership could play a key role in having the 21st century be “the century of the Hungarian people”.

Back then EU membership came with the promise of greater prosperity, the state secretary said, adding that after centuries of others deciding on Hungary’s fate, “we could finally feel that we could be an equal member”.

He said the old motto of “unity in diversity” had since disappeared, with many now questioning the right of nations to exist, while minority opinions were being persecuted.

Dömötör said they had thought that the EU would continue to build on the Christian traditions that had helped Europe survive, but today there were “barely any signs of Christian Democratic policies”.

He said they had also hoped that EU enlargement would end the divide in Europe, “but instead we got a large dose of double standards, as well as a lot of experience about how a given measure is perfectly acceptable if it comes from a large member state, but is destructive to democracy if it comes from us”.

It had also been naïve to think, he said, that decision-makers in Brussels would have accountability. Instead, he added, harmful decisions barely had any consequences.

Europe by today had also forgotten about the importance of peace, Dömötör said, arguing that “instead of hearing voices of peace, we’re now seeing preparations for war, with Brussels at the centre.”

Hungary’s EU membership is a national interest, and the Hungarian government believes in European cooperation, the state secretary said.

“But Brussels today, in the political sense, is not synonymous with Europe, so criticising its decisions does not go against the confidence in European cooperation,” he added.

“The reason the Hungarian government raises its voice is exactly because what’s being done in Brussels today endangers not just Hungary, but all of Europe,” he said. Dömötör said change was needed in the EU.

Meanwhile, Barna Pál Zsigmond, parliamentary state secretary of the European affairs ministry, also called for change in Brussels, saying that at stake in the June EP election was whether there would be war or peace.

Marking the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s EU accession, Zsigmond said in a Facebook video that the question after two decades in the EU was not whether or not Hungary wanted to remain a part of Europe, but rather whether Europe wanted to remain what it was and what kind of a Europe the people wanted.

“We Hungarians want neither a war-torn continent, nor a continent of immigrants,” he said.

“We want a peaceful Europe where nations and our families live in peace, a Europe which doesn’t go to war irresponsibly, doesn’t take in tens of millions of immigrants, one which believes in the power of nation states and stands up in defence of Judeo-Christian culture.”

Zsigmond said Brussels had sought out to “wind up” what Europe had been up until now without receiving a mandate to do so from the people.

Change is needed in Europe, “but it is us who have to make it happen; we must preserve our national sovereignty”, he said.

Menczer: Brussels 'Pro-War', Building War Instead of Peace

Brussels is “pro-war”, and instead of building Europe’s peace, it is building war, Tamás Menczer, the communications director of ruling Fidesz, said.

Marking the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s EU accession, Menczer said in a video on Facebook that at the time of joining the bloc, Hungary and the EU had two shared goals that there should be peace and prosperity in Europe.

“But today we’re missing two of these: peace and prosperity,” he said. “That’s why we say that change is needed in Brussels.”

Menczer said Brussels had promised “that we would respect each other; that member states would respect each other and the Brussels-based institutions would respect member states”.

“Yet we Hungarians are not respected. They blackmail and pressure us because of our pro-peace stance,” he said.

“Brussels is pro-war and isn’t building Europe’s peace, but war. That’s why we say that change is needed in Brussels.”

He said all of the decisions taken by Brussels on sanctions affecting the economy and the energy sector were destroying the European standard of living, and urged voters to send MEPs to Brussels on June 9 who truly valued Europe’s peace and prosperity.

Meanwhile, Dobrev Says: 'Strong Europe Needed'

Klára Dobrev, the leader of the opposition Democratic Coalition, Socialist and Párbeszéd parties for the EP elections, said she wanted European wages, pensions and health care, at the three parties’ joint celebration of International Labour Day and the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s EU accession, in Budapest.

“I want a strong Europe, one that is able to care for all Hungarian people, even if it requires defending them against the [incumbent] government,” Dobrev said in City Park, arguing that “Hungary’s EU membership and the prestige of labour are under attack from the right.”

“Although Hungary is there, in Europe, the country has been shamed, Hungarians have the lowest wages and pensions in Europe, their country has the worst level of health-care services and the level of public education has deteriorated most here while the family circles of [Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán have stolen the unprecedented amount of money pouring onto the country,” she said. “This must be stopped,” the DK politician said.

The Hungarian government, Dobrev said, had also intimidated Hungarian workers by threatening “to replace them with cheaper foreign labour if they dare to complain”.

“Only a left-wing, green, social-democrat government will be able to pull Hungary out of this nightmare,” she said, urging opposition parties to join forces.

Gergely Karácsony, the mayor of Budapest and a Párbeszéd politician, said that “twenty years after Hungary’s EU accession, the tone of the anniversary’s celebration is bitter-sweet”.

“Although we must value and should not forget that we are a member of Europe’s most peaceful and most progressive political alliance, we must also see that the other countries that joined 20 years ago along with Hungary have made better use of the opportunity to lift their nation,” he said.

The EU, Karácsony said, was not perfect either. “It is not strong enough, gives too much to the elite and too little to the people,” the mayor said, adding that “we want a stronger Europe, because we believe in the notion that only a stronger Europe could ensure Hungary’s national sovereignty”.

“A parasite state will never use EU funds in a smart way,” Karácsony said. “Those monies are missing from the education and health-care sectors, from the city of Budapest and the smallest Hungarian villages. The state must be changed, service must be chosen instead of ruling over a country.”

Imre Komjáthi of the Socialists pledged to strengthen trade unions, “which are the immune system of working people and society”

EU Affairs Minister Calls for Clearer, More Transparent Rule-Of-Law Conditionality Regulation

European Union member states agreed at the meeting of EU affairs ministers on Tuesday that the standards of the EU’s conditionality procedure regarding the rule of law should be clearer and more transparent, the Hungarian minister said.

János Bóka said the ministers had backed a proposal, “which Hungary has tabled several times”, that the Court of Justice of the European Union should engage in “structured dialogue” with member states’ constitutional courts when making declarations on general standards of the rule of law.

“Standards of the rule of law are shaped in member states, not at an EU level,” he said. The EU treaties currently ensure sufficient tools for the EU to handle issues on the rule of law, Bóka said.

He noted that the meeting tabled expanding the dialogue on the rule of law to issues such as disinformation, “but many felt the EU would come close to censorship if it was to review the statements allowed in an election campaign or political discussion.”

The ministers also agreed that the EU had no exclusive jurisdiction on issues concerning the bloc’s fundamental values, he said.

Regarding EU enlargement, the ministers backed the proposal to involve the candidate countries furthest along in the accession procedure in the dialogue on the rule of law.

“We hope that the agreement will be completed under the Belgian presidency, and Hungary will be the first to conduct talks on the rule of law with the participation of four member candidates,” Serbia, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia, he said.

Leaders of the member states will adopt an itinerary on the enlargement process at the next EU summit, he said. Hungary will play an important role in the process during its presidency, he added.

Bóka also met the Secretary-General of the European Parliament on Tuesday, to discuss preparations to the transition to the Hungarian presidency.


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