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Hungary’s 15 years in the EU

May 1st, 2019

In articles recalling Hungary’s accession, columnists from Left and Right draw up a balance sheet of the country’s 15 years in the European Union.

Népszava’s Róbert Friss thinks that Hungary is slowly moving away from Europe again. The left-wing columnist contends that joining the EU, ‘fulfilled the Hungarian nation’s one-thousand year desire and St. Stephen’s wish to make Hungary an institutional part of the West’. Friss acknowledges that the expectations about EU membership were too high, and he also suggests that Hungary joined the EU too early. Friss believes that the main motivation for joining the EU was to become part of Europe and the system of European values. Friss accuses the current Hungarian government of violating these norms and incrementally alienating Hungary from Europe through authoritarian governance and its efforts to place the country between East and West.

In Magyar Nemzet, Zoltán Kottász writes that the balance of Hungary’s 15 year-old membership is positive. Despite the fact that the country has not caught up as fast as was suggested fifteen years ago, Hungary is better off than it would be without EU membership, thanks to structural funding from the EU, the pro-government commentator notes. Kottász thinks that despite all this, Western European politicians still look down on Eastern member states. As an example, Kottász mentions Frans Timmermans statements in which the Social Democrat luminary criticized Hungary for defending Europe’s borders from undocumented migrants. Despite the contempt of some Western European politicians and the cultural differences, Hungary still wants to maintain European solidarity, Kottász concludes.

Magyar Hírlap’s László Bogár claims that Hungary’s growth has little to do with EU membership. The pro-government economist known for his anti-globalist and anti-capitalist views thinks that multinational companies have ever since 1989 ‘siphoned off’ their profits from Hungary, regardless whether Hungary was a member of the EU or not. Bogár admits that huge amounts of EU funding have arrived in Hungary, but he adds that most of these revenues also ended up in the pockets of ‘multinational capitalists’. Citing GDP data, Bogár claims that since 2010, Hungary has been catching up with Western Europe again, which Bogár attributes to the government’s wise economic policy rather than EU membership.