Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

A leftist take on the looming EU sanctions

February 27th, 2012

Left-wing and liberal analysts blame the government for the European Commission’s threat to withhold hundreds of millions of Euros in subsidies. They suggest that both the government and the public will have to acknowledge the necessity of pro-market reforms.

On Wednesday, February 22, the executive body of the EU proposed the suspension of  495 million Euros in development support, unless Hungary makes further efforts to bring its public deficit below the required 3 percent of GDP see BudaPost February 24). Right-wing columnists blamed the unprecedented threat on the European left (see BudaPost February 23) and on László Andor personally, the Hungarian Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion who supported the sanctions against Hungary, although he did not participate in the vote (for which he was criticised by the Socialists as well). Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called the Commission’s proposal unfair and illegitimate and pointed out that Hungary was among the few EU member states which succeeded in reducing deficit and public debt in 2011. The PM also expressed the hope that the Finance Ministers will not approve the Commission’s draft at their meeting in March. But even if a decision on sanctions is adopted, Hungary will have months to avoid the suspension of the funds, by convincing the EU that the deficit can be brought below 3 per cent by 2013.

PM Orbán only got what he asked for, when the target was Hungary’s Socialist government, Zsolt Zsebesi writes in Népszava. He reminds readers that in 2006 Viktor Orbán, as the leader of the right-wing opposition, appealed to the Commission to introduce sanctions against governments “which failed to deliver”. Zsebesi finds it ironic that the Orbán government now tries to blame the sanctions on the European left.

In the same daily, Tamás Mészáros notes that the unprecedented proposal is at least partly the result of the Orbán government’s combatant anti-EU rhetoric. Had PM Orbán  been less critical of the West in general for the past two years, he could have expected more flexibility and sympathy from the EU, Mészáros contends.

In Népszabadság, Bence Kriván argues that the European Commission was right to assert that last year, the deficit would have skyrocketed without the nationalization of the private pension funds (see BudaPost December 30), and thus one cannot reasonably claim that the budget is well-balanced. If the government does not revamp the budget, the country will lose the 495 million Euros, and every Hungarian will suffer, Kriván warns.

The Commission’s proposal to withhold structural aid is the fault not only of the current government, but also of the previous Socialist-Liberal coalitions, admits Sándor Révész in Népszabadság.

Moreover the public – as well as the political parties – is responsible for the high deficit of the past years, the liberal columnist points out. Voters have since 2002 eagerly supported the party which offered more welfare and public spending, regardless of the budgetary consequences. The Socialists were voted into power because of their promise to immediately increase public sector wages by 50 percent. In 2010, Fidesz won the election because it pledged tax cuts alongside higher public spending.

It is therefore not enough to abandon the unorthodox economic policies introduced by the Orbán government, Révész contends. In order to rebalance the budget, structural reforms seem unavoidable. These would involve, however, painful “neoliberal” policies and cuts which have so far been rejected by the parties and the public alike, Révész suggests.

Tags: , , , ,