“We will not allow Brussels dictating us their terms! We have never let Vienna or Moscow to guide us in our history, and now we won’t let Brussels do this! Hungary should have its own corner interests!” – claimed the Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn. This belligerent rant has confused even those EU diplomats that are perfectly familiar with Budapest. V. Orbàn has allowed himself the kind of statements even earlier (“there is life out of the EU borders” or the recent one “wind blows from East”), but still this claim sounds really strange from the Head of the state, occupying the post of another EU Chairman. Especially, considering the results of public opinion poll, held in the beginning of the year, according to which 46% of Hungarians positively assess the six-years membership of the state in the European Union, and 42% - negatively. Yet last summer, this correlation was 30 to 50 correspondently. Which means that the expectations related to the EU Chairmanship of the state have changed the views of Hungarians on the European Union positively. And now more than 2/3 of country’s population (69%) would support its EU membership. However, noteworthy is the fact that in course of time skeptic spirits have begun revealing more intensively, and first three months of European Chairmanship have disillusioned people more. I.e. unbiased illustrations and words of the Prime Minister don’t contradict each other. V. Orbàn is not against Europe. His words only reflect the bitter acknowledgment of that the pure membership is not able to solve the problems of the country, while its independence is limited. Adding to this the principle of double standards, from time to time implemented in Europe, as well as the manner to disdain, than the faith into European integration reduces to some extent. In general the European Union badly stands the member-states sovereignty, especially when the case is not about the “old guard”. It’s not surprising that Brussels disapprovingly observes the “liberation war” of Hungarian Prime Minister and his crisis-fighting measures which differ from the common ones. Even when most of them were adopted by other states.
A year ago Fidesz undertook the governing over the country, fighting with deep moral, political and economic crisis. The fact that the right-centric party gained 2/3 of the votes in the Parliament, and radical nationalistic “Jobbic” (which in its pre-electoral rhetoric focused on anti-Romani slogans) – 16%, vividly illustrates the results of 8 years of previous Cabinet governing and the general situation in the country, which from cycle to cycle was divided strictly in two parts on the number of those supporting right-wing and left-liberal circles. The reason is quite simple. Hungary was on the edge of collapse, it was forced to take credit from the IMF of over 25 billion Euro, i.e. state debt exceeded 80% of GDP, corruption flourished, society for good separated on ideological and social grounds, no reforms within past 20 years after the change of the regime have taken place.
Most people hoped only that later their children will have better life.
New government by 2/3 in the State Assembly promised complete renovation, the end of twenty-years of transition period, stability without measures of strict saving, rehabilitation of economy, reduction of state debt up to 70% of the GDP. Under the sign of nation unification they adopted the law on second citizenship, which simplified the receipt of Hungarian citizenship for 5 million compatriots abroad without changing the place of registration. The new Cabinet said good-bye to the IMF and neoliberal recipes of withdrawal from the crisis leading to the dead-end. New investments into Hungarian economy will flow, most probably from East. Hungary is not rushing also into the Eurozone, it doesn’t plan to enter till 2020. It also voted against equation of taxes, as it will now weaken the compatibility of the country. The Government rescued people from Kabala of private pensionary box offices and returned money into the state system, which was urgent for the bringing of the budget deficiency into the limits set by the EU (not higher than 3%). They exposed taxes on banks of 0,5% of the amount of balance, except for that, the so-called crisis tax was introduced for three years (1-6%) for big enterprises of energy, telecommunication spheres as well as trade networks. The last one harmed the interests of German and Austrian companies represented here. 15 multinational companies even addressed to the European Commission with claims. Afterwards, except for the listed measures the government adopted the law on Mass Media, which incited a stormy reaction within international arena. At the moment the project of new Constitution is being developed.
In the heat of recent feverish reformations most Hungarians hoped, that international prestige of the country shall improve due to the EU Chairmanship. But counter to the expectations Hungary was severely criticized by Europeans in respect with the adoption of the law on Mass Media. Naturally, this is not the most successful legal act – between the lives we observe the supremacy of power and the desire to control everything. The same this intention is noticeable within the decision on limitation of authorities of the Constitutional Court. In its essence the law answers current challenges, but not that clear wordings in some provisions really stiffens censorship and incites worries. At the same time this is not the reason to fall into hysteria in German language press and the European Parliament. Exaggerated blames, related mostly to political views, haven’t vanished and then, when Hungarian Parliament introduced amendments to the law in accordance with the suggestions of the European Commission. This proves that the core lies within another issue. Hungarian society agrees that the real reason of disproportionate number of attacks are the hurt interests of the abovementioned multi-national companies, European principle of double standards and uncertainty of Brussels towards states of East Europe. To this we can add not always pro-European, in a full extent national rhetoric of Hungarian right-wing forces, much less flexible in comparison with left-liberal, as well as the policy of protection of the state’s interests, inciting conflicts in a natural way. The kind of line is welcomed not by all the EU members. European Mass Media in recent years have lost the interests to authorities’ violence and demonstrations crackdown, and now observe the events in Hungary as if here dictatorship is flourishing. Left-liberal intellectuals stated immediately that V. Orbàn develops Hungarian variant of “Putinism”, the Prime Minister was compared with Venezuela Leader H. Chàvez, Portuguese – A. Salazar and Belarusian – A. Lukashenko.
Within this context Mass Media focused little on the priorities of Hungarian European Chairmanship. It’s important for Budapest to understand principle issues for the region’s states and to put emphasizes within current cases. The core idea is the rallying of Central Europe and strengthening of its states. The prior interest of Hungary is also the integration of Western Balkan states (especially the support of Croatia membership), inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria into Schengen area, development of Danube strategy, as well as assurance of energy security of the EU and CEE region. And although the main focus of Budapest is directed at Balkans, here they lay greater significance also on the “Eastern Partnership”.
Hungarians wish to achieve “disappointment towards the EU extension” would be changed with optimism. For this, naturally, it is urgent for new members to perform successfully as European Chairmen. Slovenia remained to be unnoticed, the Czech Republic entered into the Chairmanship in the heat of governmental crisis. That is why 2011 is so important, when Hungary and Poland stand by the bar.
It is expected that during Hungarian Eurochairmanship they will develop a common line of the EU in relation to Romani integration. Naturally, significant matters include the EU compatibility growth, as well as stability of Eurozone states. Recently held Session of the EU Council assisted its promotion.
After adoption of new measures on strengthening of financial stability, European press gradually started to view differently the work of Hungary as the Chairman. According to the reporter of “Financial Times” in Brussels, Eurochairmanship of Budapest turned out to be more competent as many people expected. The half year started really unsuccessfully (considering the issue of the law on Mass Media), as the same time Hungarians managed without special clamor to promote within the most complicated European matters. Three months ago many people simply smiled listening to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Martoni that the main task is service for member-states. In the midway it was evident that with the coming into power of Lisbon Treaty the authority of the Chairman have reduced significantly as a part of responsibility had been undertaken by the Chairman of the Council of Europe H. Van Rompuy, another part – the Supreme Chairman K. Ashton. The country, chairing the EU, in the essence, assures the arrangement of events under the current agenda. In reality it has few opportunities to accomplish its own preferences. 85% of work is the one left after the last chairmanship, 10% - crisis regulation and 5% - accomplishment of own initiatives. If there are attacks from Europeans, as for example, in case of the law on Mass Media (judging by all, they also can be expected on the Constitution developed), than it is not surprising that the Prime Minister doesn’t regret that the Summit “Eastern Partnership” will be held in Budapest. In this situation, we should be glad even with insignificant praise and value the fact that there is a possibility to present Hungarian culture, gastronomy and wines. Hardly this would be able to cross the complicated beginning, slaps and moralization. There is a threat that a deep understanding of the European Union work will only promote skepticism of Hungary. As well as some time ago we expected European Chairmanship, the same now we are waiting for its sooner ending.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI