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Jun 16, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

Hungary’s latest national consultation launched on Monday. Here’s a look back at earlier consultations

Beginning on Monday, questionnaires for Hungary’s national consultation are going out to every household in the country, some 7.8 million. This is the eighth national consultation since the first one nearly ten years ago, in September 2010. What began as a letter to pensioners asking for their opinions has become one of the Hungarian government’s effective methods for consulting the public before making important policy decisions.

 
 

Since 2010, the Hungarian government has turned to the national consultation – a questionnaire mailed by the state to every household in Hungary – eight times to solicit citizen input on several high-priority issues.

The goal of the national consultation is to enable the government to make decisions and shape policies in a way that meets citizens’ opinions and coincides with their vision of Hungary’s future, synchronizing our actions with the public will. This is why the national consultation is, in fact, a unique initiative that allows for direct, democratic dialogue between the government and the people who put their faith in us. Also, it’s less expensive and faster than a referendum.

With the questions on the survey already out and the consultation process now starting, this is a good time to look back at the last ten years – and eight national consultations.

In 2010, when the idea of a large-scale public dialogue on important issues was first conceived, the government sent a letter to pensioners to ask their opinion on pensions and other social benefits. Guided by the same principle, in 2011 we conducted two national consultation campaigns: one on Hungary’s new Fundamental Law and another one known as the “social consultation.” Nearly one million citizens returned the 2011 questionnaire, an early sign of the potential of this process.

In 2012, as a sequel to the one on social issues, we launched an economic consultation on taxes, utility prices, multinational companies, and how to assist Hungarians who had taken out foreign currency loans before or around the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Based on the results of the survey, the Hungarian government, among other important measures, began its renowned utility price reduction program that has since saved millions for Hungarian families.

One of the key surveys, the 2015 national consultation on immigration and terrorism, went on to become the backbone of Hungary’s well-established policy of rejecting illegal migration and equipped Prime Minister Orbán with the necessary mandate to hold his ground against Brussels’ liberal, pro-migration activists.

In 2017, the government carried out two national consultations, once through the “Let’s stop Brussels!” campaign, and a second time regarding George Soros’s plan to flood Europe with at least one million immigrants a year. With more than 2.3 million questionnaires returned, the national consultation on the Soros plan became the most significant consultation in Hungary to date, exceeding the participation rates of many referenda we’ve had in the past 30 years.

Finally, in 2018, PM Orbán’s government began an eighth, large-scale public dialogue. This time, the topic was family policy and specific family support measures, aimed at reversing Hungary’s demographic decline. More than 1.2 million Hungarians responded to the survey, laying the groundwork for Hungary’s internationally acclaimed, seven-step Family Protection Action Plan.

The latest national consultation is now underway, giving Hungarians another opportunity to weigh in – this time, on questions about a possible second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, the economic impact of the epidemic, and illegal immigration.