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Hungarian trick: How Viktor Orban plays on EU fears

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

Relations between Budapest and Brussels have long been going through a difficult period. This is especially true of the topic of refugees, sexual minorities, corruption and the controversial policies of Viktor Orban.
21:42, 26 August 2021

Reuters

A lot of noise in the information space of Ukraine and the EU was caused by the article "It's time to talk about Huxit" by Hungarian political scientist Tamas Fritsch in the pro-government publication Magyar Nezmet, in which he argued the expediency of Hungary's exit from the EU. He believes that Huxit will save Hungary from the dictatorship of the globalists and Western liberals who have departed from Christian values, associated with the American-Hungarian businessman George Soros, who seek to turn the EU into a rigid imperialist federation and unify the freedom-loving and distinctive countries - members of Central and Eastern Europe. Fritsch supports the policies of the ruling Fidesz conservative party, Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Given the tense nature of Budapest's relations with the EU leadership due to disagreements on a number of issues, it is possible that the high-profile article was published in the interests of Orban, who is trying to achieve certain concessions, playing on fears prevailing in Brussels' high offices. Magyar Nezmet published the English version of the article so that not only the Hungarian audience could read it.

Related: Decision is up to Ukraine: Orban is ready to meet with Zelensky

Hungary disappointed the EU

Usually, talks about leaving the EU begin in Hungary during periods of conflicts and heated discussions with European officials. Relations between Budapest and Brussels are going through a difficult period after the entry into force of the law banning gay propaganda. According to the document, distribution of materials containing information about homosexuality or gender identity among persons under 18 is prohibited in Hungary. In mid-June 2021, a majority of MPs from the ruling Fidesz party supported the law. Hungarians call it the "Child Protection Act". In this regard, the Hungarian liberal opposition staged protests, and the EU saw in the law a violation of the rights of sexual minorities.

Such a scandal erupted that at the June EU summit, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte called on Hungary to leave the EU, as the UK did, and the head of the Luxembourg government, a homosexual Xavier Bettel, reproached Orban for crossing the "red lines"? and declared that this was not the Europe in which he would like to live. By the way, former MEP and one of the ideologues of the Fidesz party, Jozsef Sayer, resigned in December 2020 after it became known about his participation in a gay orgy in Brussels and violation of quarantine rules. The scandal is not worth a damn, since LGBT values ​​have nothing to do with European integration.

Is sexual orientation an intimate question for everyone? and putting it on the public display, informing minors about LGBT values ​​is at least tactless, since you need to take into account the opinions of people with an alternative point of view. In Hungarian society, raised on Catholic values, there is no consensus on the law banning gay propaganda. According to Kafkadesk, 47% of Hungarians supported the initiative, while 42% did not. Therefore, in order to avoid conflicts and division of society, it is most logical not to focus on this topic.

Related: Trump, Putin and Hungary's Orban all share a disdain for Ukraine. That's raising alarm bells

Also, since 2015, relations between Hungary and the EU have been overshadowed by the problem of refugees. Orban's government has refused to fulfill the European Commission's plan to resettle refugees from Muslim countries from Italy and Greece, and has built barbed wire fences along the border with Serbia and Croatia, where they come from. In 2016, at that time, the Minister of the Prime Minister's Chancellery, Janos Lazar, said that if the settlement of the migration crisis is possible only on EU terms, then he sees no reason to remain in the bloc.

In December 2020, the EU court ruled that Hungary violated the European Commission's directive on security measures for the movement of illegal migrants. The Hungarian authorities do not allow asylum seekers to enter the country, so that they at least wait for deportation, and immediately send them back to Serbia. From January to August 2021, Hungarian border guards prevented 54,000 people from crossing the Hungarian border illegally and detained 17,000 people who nevertheless managed to get into the country. In protest, the EU external border security agency Frontex has curtailed operations in Hungary.

Open source

The dissatisfaction with the European Commission is caused by the growth of authoritarian tendencies in Hungary. Having a parliamentary majority since 2010, the Fidesz party and the Christian Democratic People's Party amended the Constitution, which limited the possibility of creating institutions of civil control over the executive branch, made it possible to strengthen government control over courts, the media, banks, and deprive more than 100 religious groups of their status churches. About 60% of the media are concentrated in the ownership of the state or businessmen loyal to the government.

The EU suspects the Hungarian authorities of corruption, including misuse of money from European funds. The practice of providing government orders to companies that please the ruling regime. Elios Innovativ, Orban's son-in-law, Istvan Tirbosch, won a tender for the supply of streetlight lamps, which were 56% above market prices. The purchase was carried out with funds allocated by the EU. The contract for the construction of the stadium in the village of Felxut, where Orban was born, was awarded to the firms of businessman Lorenz Meszaros, close to the Fidesz party. Between 2005 and 2020, 41% of government contracts were awarded despite tendering irregularities, according to the Reporting Democracy think tank.

Brussels is confident that politicians like Orban are trying to rebuild Europe for themselves. In 2018, 448 MEPs voted to impose sanctions on Hungary. Budapest traditionally denies accusations from Brussels and accuses European officials of interfering in Hungary's internal affairs. Parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Kever believes that the EU is putting pressure on Hungary in the same way as the USSR. In March 2021, Fidesz left the European People's Party, the leading group in the European Parliament, amid controversy.

Related: How long will the EU finance Viktor Orban's illiberal state?

What is Brussels afraid of?

It is no coincidence that Magyar Nezmet began talking about Hungary's withdrawal from the EU against the background of existing disagreements between the Orban government and the European Commission. European officials fear EU fragmentation. The UK set a precedent when, due to insurmountable differences, a participating country voluntarily left the union. It is unlikely that the Hungarian authorities are seriously considering leaving the EU. Whatever Fritsch says about the fact that Hungary is an economically self-sufficient country and will be able to develop constructive relations with the EU without being a member of the bloc, like Norway or Switzerland, the idea of ​​Huxit is not popular in Hungarian society.

Reuters

According to a Median poll, 83% of Hungarians, including 79% of Fidesz supporters, support the republic's membership in the EU. At the same time, 56% of Hungarian citizens trust European institutions. Without access to the common market, freedom of movement, Hungarian businesses will suffer losses. Orban wants to see if the rhetoric in Brussels about Hungary changes amid talks about leaving the EU. He expects Europe to close its eyes to Hungarian specificity and moderate authoritarianism.

The Hungarian prime minister makes it clear to the EU that in order to avoid the collapse of the union, it is necessary to take into account the interests of all member states, and not interfere in their internal affairs, and abandon the discriminatory approach when some states are accused of violating the common European course, while others are not. For example, Brussels did not raise the issue of imposing sanctions against Germany in response to the construction of the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. This project runs counter to the EU's policy of expanding natural gas imports and reducing energy dependence on Russia, it is not beneficial for Hungary, which is engaged in the transit of Russian natural gas coming through Ukraine to Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

The Hungarian prime minister will do what he sees fit for his country, without looking back at Brussels. The scandalous article was published on the eve of the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Hungary. In an interview with Magyar Nezmet, Lavrov criticized the EU sanctions policy that plagues young member states like Hungary because of imposed solidarity with more powerful states. In September, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Siyjarto will take part in negotiations with Gazprom on a new gas supply contract. He also intends to discuss the supply of blue fuel to Hungary via the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. Like Germany, Hungary is interested in making money on the transit of Russian natural gas.

Political motives

In 2022, Hungary will hold parliamentary elections, and now Orban is trying to unite the electorate around the Fidesz party and distract society from pressing problems. Once again, you won't be able to play the migration card. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the problem of illegal migration worries only 7% of Hungarians. Most citizens are worried about health problems, rising inflation, unemployment, public debt, and the deteriorating economic situation.

Related: Russia has nothing to do with relations between Hungary and Ukraine, - Orban

Fidesz faces tough elections amid crisis. The gap between the ruling party and the opposition is small. According to a Kalman poll, at the beginning of August, the ruling party was supported by 48% of Hungarians, while the united opposition was supported by 45%. By October 2021, the Democratic Coalition, the right-wing Jobbik party, the Hungarian Green Party, the Hungarian Socialist Party, the Moment centrist movement, and the Dialogue environmental party expect to decide on a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. To compete more effectively with Fidesz, the united opposition could run on a single list in the elections and agree on a common candidate for the post of prime minister.

Despite the fact that the united opposition is represented by ideologically motley parties that are unlikely to be able to find a common language, Orban decided to play it safe and find a new external enemy to mobilize the electorate. European officials who sympathize with the LGBT community and are eager to tell Hungarian children why not all boys like girls and why some people change sex are ideal for this role.

Reuters

The EU leadership makes a big mistake in dealing with distinctive countries like Hungary by imposing conflicting values. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, is convinced that freedom, tolerance and human dignity are fundamental values ​​for the EU. However, one should not forget that each country has its own understanding of these values ​​through the prism of ethnocultural characteristics and religion. What is acceptable in the more liberal Netherlands or Luxembourg does not have to be par for the course in the more conservative and devout Hungary. And this is absolutely normal and corresponds to the principle of unity in diversity, on which European integration is based. The EU was created in order for European countries to derive socio-economic and political benefits from cooperation within the union, to solve problems with joint efforts, respecting their identity, and not to delve into the preferences of the LGBT community.

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