A centrist analyst predicts that “verbal war” between Hungary and the European Union is here to stay, but no real punitive sanctions are probable.
“The air is boiling between EU officials and PM Orbán’s government,” József Péter Martin, former editor of Figyelő and now an expert on European affairs writes on komment.hu. He believes that is unlikely to change any time soon, since as Mr Orbán reportedly told his People’s Party colleagues in Strasbourg on Tuesday, he does not expect these conflicts to subside before next summer’s elections, as “if you’re on the defensive, you are not going to win the vote.” In Martin’s interpretation that sentence means that the government intends to stay defiant, in order to bolster its constituency, as well as “hoping to win over extreme right-wing voters.” Given the obvious advantages of European Union membership, the author writes, there is no other reasonable explanation for a systematic policy which “has transformed Hungary into Europe’s black sheep”. Martin disagrees with pro-government commentators who claim that Hungary is being criticised for having challenged powerful business interests, and who argue that the “defence of common European values” is just a pretext on the part of European officials. Nevertheless, the analyst admits that business lobbies are playing a role in the controversy, and feels that the charge of “dictatorship” is also highly exaggerated. He does not expect the Union to take harsh punitive measures, because Hungary appears to be able to keep the deficit under the three per cent threshold, and because her critics are unlikely to get the unanimous backing of all member states for a motion aimed at suspending Hungary’s voting rights. His problem is, however, that by progressively isolating herself within the European Union, Hungary may seriously compromise her development potential.