The Spokesman's Blog, Zoltán Kovács
Myth: If they want EU funds, Eastern European members must tow the line on Brussels' migration dictates
In today’s information-saturated world, we encounter a number of arguments and story lines that become popular and oft-repeated despite having almost no basis in fact. They sound compelling and have many people who would very much like to believe them, but they’re not true. The longer they linger, however, the more they get in the way. These myths deserve to be busted.
In the face of a political adversary that wants to transform Europe by allowing unbridled immigration, casting aside subsidiarity and encumbering the labor markets with bureaucratic rules, the center-right political forces of Europe must summon the confidence to “accept the intellectual and political fight with the Left,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, addressing the European People’s Party Congress in Malta today.
Hungary’s economy hit the ground running this year. The major indicators are trending positive and international investors have taken note. Signs of a strong recovery, however, do not mean we can rest. Instead, said Prime Minister Orbán, it means that it’s time to dream big.
As a result of the hard work of Hungarian people, Hungary once again stands before an “economic breakthrough,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán addressing the Parliament earlier this week at the opening of the spring session.
Since 2000, Hungary remembers the victims of communism each year on February 25th. The totalitarian oppression in the name of this “mad ideology,” in the words of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, shattered millions of lives all over the world. Today's memorial is the day we light a candle for communism’s victims, many of whom still live among us.
Amnesty International has just released its annual report called “The State of the World’s Human Rights.” This once-lauded international human rights organization was founded in 1961 as an advocate for the prisoner of conscience, those “imprisoned, tortured or executed because [of their] opinions or religion.” Amnesty is a far cry from that today.
In an evolving, multipolar world order, Europe cannot afford to waste its energy and resources on senseless pursuits. Europe has great potential, but it lacks self-confidence. It is passing through a period of weakness, and that weakness breeds insecurity and fear that poisons the soul of the European body politic.
“It is hard to imagine a successful Hungary,” the prime minister said, “without establishing open, vigorous and fruitful economic and trade relations with one of the biggest players in the global economy”
As a strident critic of this government’s firm stance against illegal immigration, Amnesty International is not interested in a balanced discussion. Their analysis begins with their conclusions then endeavors to find supporting facts.
Recently, Foreign Policy published an article about the freedom fighters of 1956 and today's Hungary. It used some pretty strong and unfair language, so I reached out to the editors for a chance to reply. They never answered, so I'm posting my response here.
It began on a Tuesday afternoon, a beautiful autumn day on the 23rd of October 1956. Students gathered in peaceful protest with their manifesto calling for Hungary’s independence from all foreign powers, particularly the Soviet troops occupying the country. They demanded freedom of opinion and expression, the rights of free people in a democratic system.
“In 2015, a migratory wave of unforeseen proportions reached the borders of Europe,” according to the text presenting the proposed amendments to the Fundamental Law of Hungary. “One and a half million people crossed Schengen borders illegally. The cultural and economic integration of the masses of newcomers has made Europe face an unsolvable task, and uncontrolled border-crossings have significantly increased the danger of terror.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post published an article on page one with the enticing, clickable title, “Hungary intends to stop migrants with ‘hunters’ near border wall,” by their Berlin-based correspondent, Anthony Faiola. Unfortunately, he got a few things wrong.
3.3 million voters said “no” to the mandatory migrant relocation scheme in a national referendum in Hungary yesterday. This unprecedented level of support for the government’s position sends a clear message to Brussels: “Nothing about us, without us.”
Hungarian athletes are once again in the spotlight in Rio de Janeiro. Midweek, after six days of competition in the XV Paralympic Games, Hungary has won four silver and four bronze medals. Forty-three Hungarian athletes are competing in 17 sports and 74 events during this edition of the games.
Some have wondered when that fateful turn began, that moment that marked “the beginning of the end of the Soviet Empire.” For those of us who endured Soviet oppression behind the Iron Curtain, it came in 1956, brought about by a scrappy pack of kids, many of whom paid the ultimate price for their courage.
Ungarn ist das einzige Land in der Europäischen Union, das seinen Bürgern mit einer nationalen Volksabstimmung am 2. Oktober ermöglicht, über eines der derzeit wichtigsten Themen abzustimmen: die Massenmigration, die Europa destabilisiert, und insbesondere den Versuch der EU, Zwangsansiedlungen von Migranten anzuordnen.
In etwas weniger als einem Monat werden die Ungarn bei einem nationalen Referendum ihre Stimmen abgeben. Sie werden über die folgende Frage abstimmen: Wollen Sie, dass die Europäische Union auch ohne die Zustimmung des [ungarischen] Parlaments die verpflichtende Ansiedlung von nichtungarischen Staatsbürgern in Ungarn vorschreiben kann?
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s annual speech at the Bálványos Open University and youth camp in Baile Tusnad have become major events over the years, attracting even international headlines and sometimes controversy, for the challenging ideas he puts forward.
“The decision is yours, but I would like you to know that Hungary is proud to stand with you as a member of the European Union.” Signed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, this is the text of a full-page advertisement that appeared in the British print media today. This is Hungary’s prime minister taking a stand, like many other European leaders, on an issue that’s important to Europe and important to Hungary.
What a night! After 95 minutes of dominating the game, two terrific, well-deserved goals (and many great saves), the Hungarian national football team defeated favorites Austria, 2 to 0. The victory for the underdogs puts Hungary on top of the leaderboard in the group, after Iceland and Portugal’s 1-1 tie. A decades-long curse has been broken.
Yesterday, the Hungarian Parliament amended the Fundamental Law, our constitution, to allow the national assembly to declare a state of terrorism threat and grant temporary, extraordinary powers to the government.
For more than a year and a half, Europe has been confronting a dramatic surge in migration. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was among the first leaders on the continent to call attention to the growing problem when he began speaking frankly early last year about the practical challenges it would pose.
Jaws dropped across the European Union last week as the Eurocrats revealed their latest proposal. Whether it was in the way they dehumanized refugees by putting price tags on their heads or accused elected prime ministers of being undemocratic, the tendentious actions of the Eurocrats seem to be deliberately intended to alienate friends and supporters of the European idea. With the Brexit referendum just around the corner, Eurocrats would do well to exercise more restraint.
Hungary’s top court ruled this week in favor of the government’s plan for a referendum on the European Union’s mandatory migrant resettlement quotas. With the court’s decision, the last legal obstacle in Hungary has been removed
A recent installment of the Global Investment Guide, a series published by Forbes, writes on the recovery of the Hungarian economy, noting that Hungary has reported even better than expected results in stimulating economic growth, reducing unemployment and cutting the GDP-to-debt ratio for the first quarter of 2016. Thanks to savvy reforms that work, Hungary’s bonds, equity markets and currency have recovered and are healthy again.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visited Serbia recently as the country prepared for last weekend’s elections. The visit was all about strengthening Hungarian-Serbian relations at a time when, as many observers of recent geopolitical trends in Europe have said, the significance and influence of Central and Eastern Europe is changing.
European member states are exceptionally busy these days. Although some critics suggest that they seem asleep at the wheel in the wake of the biggest migration crisis the continent has seen for decades, the European Commission and some individual member states have drafted proposals to respond to the crisis. These plans are currently vying with one another, all in preparation for the upcoming European Council Summit.
“When I visit southern Germany, I always find time to visit Mr. Chancellor [Kohl],” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about his latest meeting with former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, adding that they discussed the future of Europe and bilateral relations between Germany and Hungary. Today, in his regular biweekly radio interview, the prime minister had several interesting things to say about both. A few things that may surprise you.
Freedom House released its annual Nations in Transit report this week. Shining a spotlight on democracy in central and eastern Europe, it scores each government’s performance across a range of indicators like governance, electoral process, independent media, civil society, judiciary and corruption.
Last week, the Hungarian Parliament withdrew the law on the mandatory, Sunday closures for retail shops. The regulation, which provided a guarantee to workers in the retail sector that they would have a day off on Sunday, had been in effect since March 15, 2015. Now Hungary’s retail sector is again open for business on Sundays.
The Hungarian Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga presented Hungary’s 2017 budget plan on Tuesday. The core message signals predictability and stability to investors, while maintaining the government’s popular “one step ahead” policy, especially for families. The budget plans for 3.1 percent GDP growth, a falling debt-to-GDP ratio and a deficit of 2.4 percent.
Yes, the loan is paid off. Commenting last week on the good news, Prime Minister Orbán said that “Every Hungarian family has a good reason to open a good bottle of red wine tonight and drink to the health of the country because yesterday we succeeded in settling the old debt that the previous government took on in 2008."
In his regular, radio interview on Friday morning, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that, on the EU’s quota system, “it cannot be the case that one member state alone makes a decision and the others suffer the consequences.” He also spoke about the symbolic significance of paying off the loan and that Hungary has good reason to celebrate this weekend.
Here we go again: a new social issue on the menu. This time it’s education occupying the domestic public sphere as Hungarian teachers voice their concerns over the elements of an overdue structural reform of public education.
In February, I posted a few examples of how certain leaders were beginning to sing a distinctly different tune on the growing migration challenge. The title of the post was “Migration and European Borders: That Moment When Other EU Leaders Sound Like Prime Minister Orbán.”
Over the past few years, Hungary has been subject to its fair share of double standards from the European Union. Having been wrongly accused of curtailing the freedom of the press, undermining checks and balances and the rule of law, the Orbán government, although cleared on all charges, was labeled the EU’s “black sheep”. A familiar narrative has emerged in Poland.
First reactions are often the same: grief, condolences, sympathy, words to remember the victims and to comfort the families. Hungary’s highest representatives, President Áder and Prime Minister Orbán, were among the first European leaders to express their condolences through letters to their Belgian counterparts.
As the cost of raising children increases, Hungary’s government has singled out soaring housing prices as a major hindrance to families who want to own their home and have more children. To ease the financial burden, the government has passed legislation that provides support for home ownership.
Prime Minister Orbán, President of the Central Bank György Matolcsy and Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga appeared together this week at an event hosted by the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Recent weeks have brought a good deal of upbeat economic data related to 2015, so there was plenty of reason to be bullish on 2016.
Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér announced last week that Hungary is declaring a nationwide state of emergency due to the increasing volume of mass migration on the Western Balkans route. As a result, reinforcements have been deployed to the borders to provide additional security and be on the lookout for people trying to cross illegally.
I took part in a panel discussion recently about international media coverage of Hungary. The panel was part of an event announcing the release of the latest edition of an analysis published every year by Nézőpont Intézet, a think tank in Budapest.
On Monday, heads of the European Union member states gathered for yet another summit, attempting to reach an agreement on how to respond to the migration crisis that the EU has been struggling with now for more than a year.
“The smart Hungarian goes to Berlin through Munich” – PM Orbán receives Bavarian PM Seehofer in Budapest
The first thing we learned from last Friday’s joint press conference following the meeting between Prime Minister of Bavaria Horst Seehofer and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is what they didn’t do during their meeting.
“Here, there will be no breaking through of the [border] fence, no immigrant uprisings, no refugee camps set on fire and all kinds of gangs will not be out on the hunt for Hungarian women, our wives and daughters. This is impossible, it cannot happen,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. “From this perspective, we will not make Europe out of Hungary. This will remain a safe place.”
“As I see today,” Prime Minister Orbán said, “there are so many problems – and you know it too, that problems don’t just mean trouble, they mean an opportunity as well – within the European Union that many countries have taken up with or are taking up with the idea of creating a deeper form of integration after the common currency. And that puts us, every country, which is not a part of the Eurozone, up to a challenge.”
As the EU Moves to ‘the Hungarian Solution on Migration,’ Says PM Orbán, Hungary Must Let the People Decide in a Referendum on the Quota System
European leaders gathered in Brussels earlier this month for a European Council meeting on Britain’s proposed reform plans and again on the migration crisis. Though often heated and sometimes personal, the debate took Europe closer to the solution that Hungary and others have been proposing for months on migration: restore order at Europe’s borders before anything else.
Prime Minister Orbán has had a busy travel agenda in recent days, visiting Jakarta, Ulan Bator, Moscow, Brussels, and Prague — and in the same week, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło paid a visit to Hungary. The prime minister wasn’t the only one on the road of late. Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjártó also traveled to the United States last week.
Clearly, the debate about migration and strengthening Europe’s external borders has taken a turn. Following renewed fighting around the city of Aleppo, nearly 600,000 Syrian migrants are reportedly bound for Europe, compelling Austria and Germany to change their positions on the question of border protection.
The latest economic data is out. Hungary’s GDP grew in 2015 by 2.9 percent, beating the forecasts, and other preliminary data shows the debt-to-GDP ratio shrinking to 75.5%. A shrinking debt along side GDP growth indicates that this economy is growing organically, not from financing. In fact, last year was encouraging on a number of economic fronts.
Clearly, the debate about migration and strengthening Europe’s external borders has taken a turn. Following renewed fighting around the city of Aleppo, nearly 600 thousand Syrian migrants are reportedly bound for Europe, compelling Austria and Germany to change their positions on the question of border protection.
That Hungary and Russia have managed to improve relations, particularly in the current international climate, is first and foremost “rooted in the sense of responsibility” and marks “a true miracle,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán yesterday following his annual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Today, leaders of member states of the European Union gather for another summit of the European Council. This time, it’s to grapple with responses to the migration crisis as well as the British reform proposals for the European Union.
“It is a fact that one should act cautiously not to [unnecessarily] limit the rights of freedom, but people’s security comes first,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said Friday morning during his regular interview with public radio.
Last week, one of France’s credit insurance companies, Coface, presented a report on the world economic outlook for 2016. In the report, Coface named only one country eligible for a credit rating upgrade: Hungary.
Schengen Must Be Protected on the Frontier, Not by Re-Building Long-Ago Abolished, Internal Border Controls
The Schengen Area, first established in 1995, has eliminated border controls and allowed the free movement of people and goods in a vast geographic area that now spans 26 countries of Europe. The ongoing crisis of mass migration, however, has threatened to change all of that.