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Hungary’s immigration infrastructure strained

August 31st, 2015

Analysts ponder the implications of the latest surge in migrants: on some recent days the Hungarian authorities have had to take care of over three thousand migrants, well beyond what even expanded reception centres and registration offices can cope with. How will the current flow of migrants affect the future of Hungary and of Europe?

In a series of articles hosted by Mandiner, political scientists consider how Hungary and the European Union should react to the migration challenge.

Zoltán Balázs of Corvinus University thinks millions are on their way to, or about to leave for Europe.  These are people who cannot be expected to assimilate certain basic elements of Western political culture, he believes, like the separation of private and public life; a sense of community not based on families and clans; the separation of religious and secular law; the priority given to political freedom and participation; the recognition of popular sovereignty; the division of powers; moral checks over public powers; constitutional order and basic human rights. It is not as if Europeans could fully understand those notions, nevertheless public life in Europe is based on those principles, he writes. Those differences are bound to have an impact on European democracy sooner or later, Balázs believes. Democracies are slow to react, but when they start their movement is unstoppable. He already discerns new dividing lines in western Europe replacing the traditional left versus right division. New movements and parties are gaining strength based on the opposition between ethnic groups. It is in this sense, he argues, that the current huge mass of migrants are a threat – without being armed invaders. At the same time Hungary is neither in a position to stop or evict them. Yet letting them smoothly travel through to western Europe would be unfair. Balázs admits that he has no ready solution in mind to the problem.

In the same series of analyses, Ervin Csizmadia thinks deep political and ideological divisions in Hungary prevent the political class from meeting the migration challenge properly. Such a complex problem could only be tackled, he argues, if the opposing sides were able to cooperate. Swift decisions and immediate actions are also needed, he writes, and these steps have to be taken for the most part without a long consultative period. But strategic decisions are also necessary and these have to be the fruit of joint intellectual efforts, and must be backed by a large majority. In critical situations it is impossible to take risky decisions if the decision-makers must fear that their opponents will stab them in the back. There was more tolerance in nineteenth century Hungary than today, Csizmadia complains.

Philosopher Péter Béndek, the founder of a small Conservative party, thinks all possible solutions have their drawbacks; nevertheless decisions are needed. European leaders should urgently decide to defend Europe, by hermetically closing its external borders with internment camps positioned along them to swiftly process asylum requests. He also thinks internal border regulations should be revised to meet the new challenges; terrorist and human trafficking networks should be dismantled with the help of Middle Eastern countries ready to cooperate and order should be restored in the larger Middle East. But first and foremost, he concludes, Europe and Hungary must be defended.

Italian-Hungarian historian Stefano Bottoni thinks it is high time for leading progressive European intellectuals who have always promoted immigration to ponder what kind of Europe we are going to leave to posterity. Masses of people are streaming in whose religious, cultural and social background is simply incompatible with the post-modern, secularized and liberal way of life westerners take for granted. Unpopular as it is to say so, he continues, the vast majority of today’s asylum seekers will never become an integral part of French, German or Swedish society. They will always be considered immigrants and second rate citizens. “There is no European dream, no European federation, no united vision. There is nothing”, Bottoni concludes.

In Magyar Nemzet, political scientist Tibor Löffler accuses left-liberals in Hungary of viewing events from an ivory tower, and takes up the defence of former Prime Minister and veteran right-wing politician Péter Boross against accusations of racism and extremism. Mr Boross said that millions of people with different skin colours will hardly integrate into European societies. Arbitrarily interpreting sentences in order to discredit opponents has been a constant practice in Hungary for the past twenty-five years, Löffler continues, but we all know that skin colour makes it in fact harder to integrate. He asks whether a Pole, a light-skinned Arab or a dark skinned African have the same chances of integration and of inclusion in extremely tolerant Sweden. Or if the skin colour of Hungary’s Roma is not an obstacle in their careers. Ultimately, Löffler believes, massive immigration from the Third World is bound to contribute to segregation in Europe.


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