When Viktor Orban was taking over authority, it was known that it was not going to be easy. But the hysteria and its consequences which appeared around Hungary nobody had been able to foresee. It is a lesson for us as well: it shows what the European Unions really looks like.
Although it is still a long time till the penal suspension of granting the EU funds to Hungary, which was suggested by the European Commission because of the excessive deficit (Hungary can, however, avoid the punishment if it takes up convincing actions in order to reduce the deficit), the announcement sounds threatening. It would be the first such a case in the history of the EU.
It sounds so threatening that it is difficult not to feel that the EU authorities would like to punish Hungary for something else: for the changes which are taking place in this country. It was Hungary which caused the hysteria among media. For, does xenophobia really exist in Hungary? Is there dictatorship which would be unfavourable to the EU, leading the country to economic collapse? Is there any restriction of the freedom of speech or civic rights in the fight against dishonest business, suppressing the foreign capital? This would be appreciated by the leftists or liberal politicians and media favourable to them. However, it is not so. What is really happening in Hungary? ‘Since taking over the authority in spring 2010 the Fidesz party of the Prime Minister Viktor Orban, having the constitutional majority together with the Christian Democratic Party in the Hungarian parliament, he has been realizing the program of rebuilding the state institutions’ – as experts from the Centre East Studies write in a critical analysis on this issue.
Who threatens who?
The rebuilding and also the attempts of saving finances of the country might not have been liked by many people. After introducing the Act giving a possibility to impose strict punishments on media and the new constitution – weakening the Constitutional Court by another step, which serves the Fidesz party in the consolidation of the authority in the country, there were changes in the management of the central bank and electoral ordination. And it is happening in a situation of a deep economic crisis, protests of the opposition, big businesses and strict foreign criticism, noticing the threats of democracy in Hungary. Economic reforms were necessary. In order to reduce the budget gap – inherited from the socialists – and meet the EU criteria, the government of Orban had to cut down on expenditures and find extra money, taxing those who have the so-called tax capability. Banks, energy sector, commercial and tele-communication sectors were temporarily burdened with the tax of the crisis. It was them – not the slugishness in fulfilling the EU recommendations in reducing the deficit which became a reason for a strangely strict policy towards Hungary. It may precede also troubles of other countries which, in their reforms, would breach the interests of European saloons.
Grzegorz Górny, an expert of Hungarian matters, a chief editor of the quarterly ‘Fronda’, notes that Orban should blame himself. He has breached many different interests. He is attacked by financiers who are not glad about taxing big companies in Hungary and also leftist environments with which he got in trouble by building his country on the Conservative and Christian bases. He was considered as an enemy by euro-bureaucracy because he has an idea about subjective pursuing a policy, instead of realizing directives in a blind way – says Górny. The reservations from the EU did not concern the essence of Orban’s reforms but, for example, the Act of Media, central bank. It was clearly a kind of looking for a pretext.
– The pressure is enormous but Orban is able to defend himself – as Górny notes. After the recent another wave of attacks, he simply went to Strasburg and asked for a specific answer about the reservations. The answers were so vague that it turned out that there were not many specific points that these were details and trivial things.
– Such a Polish experience from the times of the government of the Law and Justice Party teaches us that if someone wants to introduce essential changes, he must do it as quickly and deeply as possible. For, even if later he loses the authority, he will find it difficult to turn round everything. And Orban did so – emphasizes Grzegorz Górny – he introduced 365 new Acts, changed the constitution (the Stalin’s constitution of 1949 has been binding so far), he reduced a number of MPs by half. In this situation of vigour some drawbacks may appear.
Like in a mirror
Ewa Stankiewicz is finishing her work on a document (which she is preparing with Jan Pospieszalski) about Hungary. The document will present the country where people have a lot trouble with their identity, which did not come from nowhere. The Hungarians have been persuaded to believe that they are worthless, weak and cannot do anything. In this atmosphere it was easy to manipulate them. Viktor Orban is trying to change it and he refers to the tradition, identity and he wants people to raise their heads – Stankiewicz. During the realization of the film about Hungary she understood that she was making a film about...Poland. For, we can see our reflection in the history and contemporary times of Hungary, like in a mirror. The Hungarians have similar experiences, including fights against communism. There was not any de-communisation in the country either, and terrorism was much bigger. The Hungarians are very similar to us. I was astonished how well they understand what we meet with – says Ewa Stankiewicz – They say about manipulations by media which took over a complete authority over Hungary. They are complaining, having two rightist TV stations, they say that the balance of media should be reintroduced. In Poland where main media are in the hands of the formation, we cannot even dream about it. I had an impression that without any fear they say openly about such things for which in Poland they would be persecuted. It is an unusual experience – she says. Ewa Stankiewicz noticed that the government does not keep to posts or appanages but it wants to improve the life of ordinary citizens. It decided to support people who had taken mortgages in Swiss Francs and suddenly it turned out that they are in debts more and more and are not able to pay off their debts and are becoming the slaves of banks. The government is walking a different way, buying strategic energetic sectors. It wants to become independent from Russia, buying this freedom for horrendous sums of money. The Hungarians see these loads of good will and stand a wall for Orban.
Although the wall may not be so strong any more. The survey has shown for a few months that although the group of declared opponents of the government has not got larger, a group of undecided is growing – it is understandable: reforms do not cause enthusiasm among all the people. It is really difficult for many people – notes F. Pawel Cebula, and Franciscan who has lived in Hungary for a dozen years.
However the fact that 400-500 thousand people who have taken part in the recent march of support for the policy pursued by the government, made an impression. When I have talked with Viktor Orban recently, he said that in 1968 in Paris a million people came for this march of support for gen. De Gaulle. It was in France populated by a few dozens millions of people. So, in our country populated by a dozen millions of people, much more people came – says F. Cebula. – The Fidesz party still has much support and if there was an election today, it would get 2/3 votes again; especially that the first symptoms of economic development are seen. – Something seems to have started – says the Franciscan. It is worth remembering in what environment and conditions it works. The worldly crisis is still going on, the value of forint has decreased, rafting agencies – referring to the opinion of the European Commission, voices from Brussels, the International Currency Fund which have been displeased about Hungary for years - caused ratings drop. There are difficult kinds of lobby pressures whose interests are endangered. In this year’s report about the State of the country, Orban explained why the constitution had to be changed.
– For, it did not defend the property of Hungary and led Hungary into privatization, after which big consortiums and cartels started to govern the country – sums up the Franciscan. The last warning of the European Commission concerning the deficit is, in his opinion, completely odd. It shows applying a double measure. Other countries have had a deficit on a similar level for years, but the warning was said only towards Hungary.
Budapest in Warsaw
Some people learnt about the reforms and reigns of the rightist party in Hungary after Jarosław Kaczyński said after the election last year: ‘I am deeply convinced that a time will come that we will succeed and will have Budapest in Warsaw’. Will we have it?
According to Ewa Stankiewicz the Hungarians got a chance from the fate of fighting for themselves because they are not in such a conflict with each other and are aware (what she observed with envy) that caring for independence, own interests is necessary in contemporary Europe. – They also have an exceptional leader, of a strong character, unusually competent, efficient and able to defend himself in Europe – says Stankiewicz. – Such a leader is needed to walk the road of Hungary, as well as strong independent media are needed and the consciousness of the society that it is high time for deep changes. In the opinion of the parliamentarian Artur Górski, a vice-chief of the Polish and Hungarian Group of Parliament, the recent experiences of the Prime Minister Viktor Orban say a lot about the nature of the European Union. – European institutions radically want to intervene in the inner policy of the country. And after all, every country has got a right to its own way of repairing the economy, identity, individuality and constitutional changes, if it considers democratic standards. And in my opinion, they are considered in Hungary – he says. The pressures on Hungary show that Brussels, Paris and Berlin are trying to put other countries into the frames determined by larger countries and, as a result, they are not treated as partners; whereas partnership was supposed to exist in EU.
– The conclusion is that EU is not fully democratic – emphasizes the parliamentarian Górski.
– What is happening in Hungary can be a lesson for us, of mainly the fact that it is possible, even in EU, to maintain one’s identity and fight for one’s own interests. – thinks Ewa Stankiewicz. The parliamentarian Górski is certain that the example of Hungary will radiate to whole Europe. Let the Hungarians win. – It would be an important signal – he says – that despite the necessity of controlling the budget, it is worth introducing reform.