Does Hungary deserve so much criticism?

The recent sanctions procedure initiated by the European Parliament against Hungary is part of the continuing deterioration of European-Hungarian relations. Is this country the real ugly duckling of the Union, or is it simply a scapegoat?

Put an end to “Hungary bashing”

07/20/2017 - 07:55
Between the migratory crisis, the CEU law, and the polemic declarations of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Hungary has become an easy target of the Western media, to the point of the emergence a real “Hungary bashing”. This systematic bashing questions the legitimacy of the media’s treatment of the Hungarian case.

At the beginning of May 2017, the European Parliament voted a resolution to initiate a sanction procedure against Hungary, based on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. This article provides for substantial sanctions, including the suspension of the right to vote in the Council, against any Member State which violates European values and does not respect the rule of law or democracy.

While it is clear that Viktor Orbán's positions have tightened in recent years, most recently on the CEU law or the immigration management, it would be best to stay prudent instead of piling on the Western media’s tendency of "Hungary bashing". Hungarian actions are easily criticized by the media in Western European countries, starting with Germany and France. However this bashing only distances us from reality.

Undeniable economic results

First, economic success is the judge of peace for the leaders of the Union. Yet the economic situation in Hungary is not so alarming, compared to some of its European neighbors. Quite the contrary; since 2013 the Hungarian economy has returned to growth, emerging from the recession, with annual growth rates of GDP between 2% and 4% (n-b: 2.9% in 2015 according to Eurostat). In comparison, France has struggled since the subprime crisis to reach 2% growth. In addition, Hungary has also made great efforts to meet the convergence criteria.

Public debt has fallen considerably since 2010, but remains above 60% of GDP (n-b: 75.3% in 2015 according to Eurostat), whereas the public deficit of less than 3% of GDP now corresponds to the expectations of Brussels. The Hungary of Orbán has also succeeded where the France of Holland has failed: to reduce, in a considerable and continuous way, the rate of unemployment, now between 4% and 5%. After the crisis, Viktor Orbán chose to make multinationals and banks pay more than citizens, by introducing new taxes on these sectors in 2010. These may seem to be much fairer measures to many Western Socialists, than the continuous increase of taxes in some countries since the crisis, knowing that poverty was growing in Hungary already before.

One must look to one's own backyard before preaching

Regarding the deterioration of the ties between the European Union and Hungary, the countries of Western Europe give many lessons to Hungary without really looking at what is happening in their own country. Many French, German, and Brussels leaders blame the attitude of the Hungarian authorities on the border with Serbia. The problem is not so much that the European Union condemns these questionable attitudes on the humanitarian level, but above all that it really abandons one of its member states. It should not be forgotten that this border with Serbia constitutes an external border of the Union, and that if the Union were a true union, all Member States should be concerned about the security and management of the latter. Instead, Germany like France prefer to give lessons, and let the first management of migrant flows to Italy, Greece or Hungary. Similarly, the European Commission has recently called on the countries of the Visegrád Group to respect quotas. However, if Hungary has not yet implemented the quota mechanism, France hasn’t itself done that so far either, falling still far behind the target of welcoming 30 000 refugees.

The activism of a free opposition in the country

Specialists constantly evoke the deterioration of democracy in Hungary. But isn’t democracy more alive in Hungary than elsewhere in Europe? In Western Europe, and especially in France, civil society appears to be asleep. As soon as citizens want a major change, they appeal to political parties, and do not really commit. Even the “En Marche” movement, which is a civil society movement, is more and more structured as a real political party. French citizens have difficulty thinking outside of partisan logic, and are increasingly disinterested in politics. In Hungary civil society is awake, and political opposition to Fidesz does not come from parties, but rather from direct involvement of Hungarian citizens, especially young people. The emergence of movements as diverse as Momentum and Kétfarkú Kutya Párt symbolize the existence of a living democracy in the country. Moreover, spontaneous demonstrations against the closing down of the newspaper Népszabadság, against the organization of the Olympic Games in Budapest, or the CEU law, bear witness to the resurgence of a free and direct democracy in Hungary.

The countries of Western Europe should be humble in the face of history. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe regained their full sovereignty in the early 1990s. Two decades on a historical timeline are short. History has its own pace, a rhythm that must be respected. Hungary is thus advancing at a pace that is its own, and France and Germany at another. It would be unfair to judge the present situation in Hungary through the prisms of the German and French situations, for these are not comparable. Moreover, the rise of the Visegrád group, of which Hungary is a part of, does not hinder the construction of the European Union. On the contrary, it has led to a more realistic and pragmatic European Union, that is to say a Union with several speeds and multiple cooperations.

So let's stop this systematic bashing of Hungary because Hungarians are reviving democracy in Europe and they not all share the same piquant style as some of their representatives.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

For the benefit of Europe, criticize Hungary!

12/12/2017 - 12:55
As the European project is deeply challenged everywhere on the Old Continent by the emergence of populism and of the extreme right, it becomes more and more urgent to start a real debate on all national political scenes about the future of the European Union. The criticism of Hungary and its reforms, as the herald of a new form of state organization, is not only desirable, but above all indispensable.

If Hungary has distinguished itself by its economic performance, which exceeded its French counterparts or even the German ones, it presents also important differences on the social and on the political level. Since 2011, the country has experienced many constitutional transformations, some of which deeply question the democratic foundations of the regime.

 Ever more controversial reforms

The brutal lowering of the legal retirement age in the judicial field lead to the premature retirement of 274 national judges and prosecutors, while the recently established National Office of Justice, headed by a close associate to Viktor Orbán, had the right to appoint their successors.

More recently, the Prime Minister has also distinguished himself by his fight against the “transnational empire of Georges Soros”, the billionaire philanthropist and the main opponent to the regime, through numerous bills to control and limit the action of NGOs financed by foreign funds. But it is especially the new version of the law on higher national education, passed with 76.4% of votes in April 2017 by the Hungarian Parliament, which is the stumbling block of criticism against this Government. The Central European University (CEU), one of the most prestigious universities in the Hungarian capital, owned by Mr. Soros, would then be the main victim of the legislation. The new law would require the CEU to have a campus on US territory, only to be able to continue its activity on its Hungarian campus, even though it has no interest or sufficient funds to meet this requirement.

A new project for Europe

The abuses of the Hungarian government are debatable in themselves, however criticism becomes more and more important, for a desire to redefine the European project on a continent-wide scale emerges. The emergence of a Eurosceptic right-wing in Austria, Germany, Sweden but also and above all in Poland, largely echoes the numerous statements of the Magyar Prime Minister against Brussels. Anxious to vehemently denounce the European Commission and its functioning via, for example, a national consultation entitled "Stop Brussels", Viktor Orbán wants to build another Europe, far removed from the principle of supra-nationality, a principle dear for Brussels’ institutions. Hungarian Europe would then be eminently an inter-state one, where ever more political integration would be relegated at the second row behind a mere cooperation between nations.

Moreover, beyond the European project, Viktor Orbán also wants to conclude a new social contract with the population. His desire, expressed in 2014, to build a "non-liberal state" breaks with the traditions and liberal aspirations of Western European countries. Supported by Poland in its approach, as well as in its constant showdown with Brussels, Hungary aims to build a new ideal-type of the non-liberal state, of which it wants to be the herald. This project is opposed to the very nature of the European Union, based on the respect of the rule of law, of fundamental rights and of the principles inherent in any liberal democracy.

Criticizing the Hungarian regime is the equivalent of defending a system that has ensured peace and the integration of all European populations into a common ideal.


This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

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