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Weeklies on 20 years in the EU and the run-up to the EU elections

May 6th, 2024

Left-liberal authors disapprove of the government’s confrontational attitude towards the European Union, while their pro-government colleagues hope that the June elections will produce a new political order in Brussels.

In Heti Világazdaság, István Riba gives a generally positive assessment of Hungary’s EU membership with one caveat – namely that in terms of living standards Hungary is second from bottom, just ahead of Bulgaria. He finds it important that over the past 20 years, being European has become part of most Hungarians’ identity. The ratio of citizens who regard themselves as both Hungarian and European has risen from 33 to 64%, with a further 11% choosing the option ’European and Hungarian’.

In Magyar Narancs Péter Heil, the chief EU expert of the Democratic Coalition, accuses the government of turning its back on key European values. In a long article, he writes that if Hungary sought EU membership today, her application would certainly be rejected. As a result, he adds, the European Union is withholding at least two thirds of the funds due to Hungary. Relations with Brussels can only improve, he believes, once Hungary gets rid of its incumbent government.

In Élet és Irodalom, former left-wing Foreign Minister and European Commissioner Péter Balázs dismisses the Prime Minister’s announced intention to ’occupy Brussels’ as fully unrealistic. His radical right-wing allies, he argues, will not conquer any top positions within the European Union as a result of the elections to be held in June. A different government, Balázs claims, might use Hungary’s role as the rotating president of the Union in the second half of the year to improve the country’s standing within the community, but Mr Orbán and his cabinet have too many conflicts behind them to do so.

In Magyar Hang, János Reichert suggests that Fidesz can realistically hope to win another resounding victory in the European Parliamentary elections. He dismisses as mendacious the argument of the government that Fidesz is the only possible option for voters who want peace in Europe, but concedes that such slogans may well have an impact. He also believes that the 50,000 activists the ruling party plans to mobilise in its campaign represent a huge advantage vis-à-vis the opposition. He suspects that such activists will be paid for their job.

On the pro-government side, in Mandiner, MEP Ernő Schaller-Baross attributes the deterioration of relations between leading EU bodies and Hungary to a change of attitude within the leadership of the Union. Decision-makers in Brussels, he claims, have forgotten that it is the task of the European community to serve the member countries rather than vice versa. He finds it advisable for European voters to promote the victory of forces that reject war and illegal immigration, while promoting the causes of nations rather than the interests of Brussels.

In Hetek, the weekly of the Congregation of the Faith, the only large Protestant evangelist denomination in Hungary, Péter Morvay believes that over the past two decades, instead of promoting equal rights, economic stability, and peace, the European Union has started sanctioning member states for ideological reasons, in addition to ’serving external interests’ and trying to infinitely broaden its own sphere of competence. European citizens have a possibility to express their opinions on these issues once every five years and should now avail themselves of that opportunity, he concludes.

In his Demokrata editorial, András Bencsik claims that influential European leaders are bracing themselves for a Third World War or at least a brutal military crisis that might lead to an all-European conflagration. Most people are in favour of ’normality’, he continues, and Hungary has proven over the past 14 years that this perspective can win a political majority by democratic means. As one sign of ’normality’, he mentions Chinese President Xi Jinping’s imminent visit to Hungary.

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