It seems like just yesterday, but it was five years ago when Hungary, as the last of the “new” EU member states accepted a new constitution, the Fundamental Law, in April 2011, almost exactly one year after the Fidesz-KDNP alliance won a landslide victory in April 2010. By winning in almost every single constituency, Fidesz did not just replace the governing Socialists but was entrusted with an exceptionally rare supermajority, probably the most a party can win in democratic elections.
About the landslide, we knew – and if we did not, then the opinion polls told us – that it was a protest vote on behalf of many citizens. Voters protested not just the Socialists and their eight years of social and economic mismanagement but against all the failures of the past decades. Since 2006, as the failures of the Socialists became increasingly obvious, as people kept losing their economic foundations, as an exposed and weakened country technically defaulted after the financial crisis, the demand for the change kept growing. Voters put their fides – Latin for trust –in Fidesz to fix all this and gave us the power to do so. The voters’ demand to make far-reaching changes if needed, to do everything that was necessary, was clear. If we had failed to do so, we would have had no one else to blame but ourselves.
So, with a clear agenda and clear mandate, we rolled up our sleeves and started to put out the fires. Once the fires were put out, however, the structures had to be checked and repaired.
What we found as the constitutional basis for our country over the period from 1990 to 2010 was a weak, temporary constitution that was never approved by a democratic parliament and was rewritten before the democratic transition during the Soviet occupation.
Today, as we celebrate the fifth anniversary of our Fundamental Law, we remember the struggles we had to face. “The Fundamental Law was not conceived in a debate, but in battle, in a great political struggle of which we are the winners,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on the occasion of the anniversary, on Monday, April 25, in the Hungarian Parliament.
Five years since its acceptance, we can say that the Fundamental Law was exceptional. With its innovative measures – such as putting a constitutional cap on debt – it helped put the Hungarian economy back on track and transform the country from a welfare state into a workfare state. There is still much to be done, but the fact that Hungary is among Europe’s top performers regarding GDP growth, debt-to-GDP reduction and employment growth speaks for itself.
In the past year, the Fundamental Law has faced another new test that was not anticipated five years ago. The challenge is called Europe’s migration crisis, and seeing an advantage in their mandates, Brussels politicians have moved with malicious intent to limit the sovereignty of EU member states by trying – without any democratic mandate to do so – to force quotas of migrants on sovereign member states.
Hungary, as the prime minister has said many times, rejects this approach to solving Europe’s demographic problems. Hungary’s Fundamental Law clearly affirms Hungary as “a part of Christian Europe” and “the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood” and by doing so places, as the prime minister said on Monday, an effective ban on “Islamization.” This government feels an obligation to refuse any mass migration that is not supported by the people and that would undermine the cultural identity of the nation.
In his address to Parliament on the anniversary, the prime minister also pointed out that the protection of the borders – which are also the EU’s external borders – is another constitutional responsibility and this is the reason Hungary proposed its “Schengen 2.0” Action Plan to Brussels. “[W]e must know,” Orbán said, “who wants to come to our country and why; in other words, we have the right to choose with whom we wish to live together and with whom we do not wish to live together,” adding that it is not in conflict with the principle of the universal protection of refugees, but it is an explicit task for the protection of Hungary’s sovereignty.
What challenges will we face five years from now? Impossible to know at this point. But looking back it appears that the foundations established in the Fundamental Law and the proactive attitude of the government in tackling issues are values that will endure.