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Is there life outside the EU?

February 25th, 2012

Magyar Hírlap carries a debate on whether leaving the European Union is a realistic option for Hungary, while Magyar Nemzet, which also echoes the displeasure of right-wing circles with the threat of Union sanctions against Hungary, asks if the EU can be successful without respecting national traditions.

In Magyar Hírlap, András S. Szabó, a university professor of chemistry criticises the paper’s chief business commentator Csaba Szajlai for arguing in an earlier piece, that “there is no life outside the EU”. It is questionable, writes Szabó, if majority opinion in Hungary still supports EU membership. He admits that IMF and EU membership helped us avoid a default on sovereign debt in 2008, but the crisis itself was the product of left-wing governments.  Moreover, if Szajlai’s contention that cohesion and structural funds were distributed inefficiently is true, Hungary will not lose much if these funds are withheld. Szabó strongly doubts, in any case, that the EU will survive the next few years; and Belgium, Spain and even the US might fall apart, he suggests. We are on the threshold of an era of national sovereignty and differentiation – argues Szabó – as nation states increasingly favour national solutions to local issues instead of „a slavish submission to larger countries and international organizations”.

Szajlai, on the other hand, argued in his previous column that an anti-EU stance would only strengthen the far right in Hungary. In today’s paper he reiterates that China and the Arab countries are not interested in financing Hungary – unless through the IMF and Europe as a whole – and therefore attempts at forging new economic alliances outside Europe are futile (see BudaPost, june 30, 2011). Szajlai advocates a stronger economic alliance with Germany, as well as emulating a German economic policy based on exports. He also thinks attacks on multinational companies are misguided and „no amount of state subsidies is too much” to attract further investment to Hungary.

In an editorial in Magyar Nemzet, Zsuzsanna Körmendy suggests that national sovereignty and national culture will inevitably foil attempts by the EU to develop into a political entity. She thinks it is unreasonable to expect Hungary to cater to European expectations, while receiving severe blows from the very same Europe. The European Union – she argues – has abandoned its mission of „less bureaucracy and a joint struggle against the crises, based on the common interests of its members”.

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