Fidesz and the European Union

In the last two or three days the news has been full of two new Fidesz initiatives. The first was actually a warmed-up idea: to dissolve parliament and hold national elections on the same day that the country will vote on Hungarian delegates to the European Parliament. Fidesz had planned to introduce this proposal tomorrow, during an extraordinary session of parliament convened specifically to discuss the economic crisis. But it was moved forward: Tibor Navracsics announced the Fidesz proposal on the very day when half of Europe's leaders gathered in Budapest to discuss the question of the Nabucco project. Well timed, according to communication experts: the Hungarian public will not talk about the country's success in taking the initiative in a European project aimed at solving the continent's reliance on Russian gas. Rather, the media will be full of news about the fate of the Gyurcsány government.

One internet newspaper, Hírszerző, well known for its editors' intense dislike of the prime minister, is already speculating about the date of the Gyurcsány's government departure: two weeks and gone forever. Every time I read something like that I can't get over the political ineptitude of some of the Hungarian journalists and political analysts. After all, it is clear that neither MDF nor SZDSZ would be stupid enough to support Fidesz in this endeavor. Indeed, the proposal is already dead in the water: SZDSZ announced that they wouldn't even vote to bring the Fidesz suggestion to the floor tomorrow. Ibolya Dávid said that MDF would vote for the dissolution of parliament if Fidesz would reveal the party's plans for handling the economic crisis. Of course, we know what that means. Fidesz has no plans or, if it does, it doesn't divulge them. The typically impertinent Fidesz answer came swiftly enough: perhaps Ibolya Dávid should pay attention to what's going on in the country instead of galavanting all over the world.

The second stone that was thrown in the water was new: Fidesz decided to make a frontal attack on Hungary's membership in the European Union. Yesterday there was a Fidesz gathering in Miskolc. This is a yearly affair dubbed "Talks about the Future." The main speaker was Tibor Navracsics, head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation; Mrs. Pelcz neé Ildikó Gál, a native of Miskolc and one of the four deputies of Viktor Orbán, also spoke. There was no question that both quite openly questioned Hungary's membership in the EU. MTI reported it, and Magyar Nemzet gave a fairly detailed description of the two speeches. According to the MTI report Navracsics announced that there are many people who question the advantages of the membership "and thus we are in a situation in which we will have to reevaluate many things, including our membership" in the organization. That is clear enough. Mrs. Pelcz added that "Hungary is unequivocally the loser in the deal." According to Navracsics, "many believed that at last we will be a European country" but instead there is an economic crisis, a recession, massive unemployment. It seems that all this happened because Hungary is part of the European Union.

Well, let's start with the obvious question. What does it mean that one should reevaluate Hungary's membership in the European Union? There is no such option as renegotiating the terms of membership. There is only one choice: to stay or to leave. And I assume to give back all the billions of forints Hungary received from the EU. But then what does Navracsics mean? Why did he, who undoubtedly knows better, utter such drivel? The only thing I can think of is that this is once again an attempt to bring the far right that is virulently anti-Union under the Fidesz tent. But this doesn't make a lot of sense because it was only recently that Viktor Orbán talked about the European Union and transatlantic connections in glowing terms. Fidesz considers the forthcoming EU elections vital. They want to show their party's strength by wiping MSZP off the face of the earth. But if the EU is harmful to Hungary, why bother?

Well, it seems that Navracsics thought the better of it and the very next day tried to explain the whole thing away. He didn't mean to reevaluate Hungary's membership in the European Union. Instead, "one ought to think through whether Hungary in the last five years has managed to use the opportunities offered by the membership." This, of course, was not what he said. If this had been his clear intent,   why did László Csaba, the economist close to Fidesz who was present at the meeting, say: "it is decidedly better to be inside of the European Union than outside its gates."

The Navraciscs statement seems to have been part of a Fidesz trial balloon. After all, Mrs. Pelcz was at the meeting to lend ammunition to the position, and earlier László Varga, another deputy chairman of the party, made a similar very critical remark about Hungary's membership in the EU. But the balloon didn't exactly soar.

And that's nothing. Today it was reported that the EU will contribute 250 million euros toward the cost of the Nabucco project. That must hurt.

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Oh dear …… whatever else this is is, it is plainly utter political nonsense. In 1974 the UK did try to “re-negotiate” the terms of its membership of the then European Economic Community. Much of this “re-negotiation” was window dressing designed to hide the fact that the weak Labour government was politically split on the issue of membership. After this “re-negotiation” which changed nothing substantial in the treaty, the UK’s membership was approved in 1975 by a two-thirds majority. Nothing – other than preventing an outright split in the Labour party – was achieved. I do also wonder how one would withdraw. Only one state has “withdrawn” from what is now the EU – Greenland, which entered by virtue of being ruled from Denmark. Though it formally “withdrew” in 1985, the process of exempting Greenland from the legal obligations conferred by EU law has been a protracted process and continues to this day. There is – in the absence of a constitutional treaty – no legal route for a state that wanted to withdraw. And if you then did suceed in withdrawing, as a nation with dependent on trade with the EU (Navracsics may be enivsaging complete economic independence, but… Read more »