Péter Boross on immigration, the European Union, and the United States

Péter Boross, prime minister of Hungary between December 12, 1993 and July 15, 1994, periodically makes outrageous statements. Today was one of those times and, as is usually the case, every internet organ is full of condemnation of Boross. This time the Hungarian media discovered that the former prime minister of Hungary is a racist. To my mind there is nothing surprising about this. It goes with the territory. Boross, who was born in 1928, would feel right at home in the Hungary of Gyula Gömbös and Pál Teleki, two prime ministers in the 1930s who were zealous “defenders of the race” (fajvédők).

Nowadays people who find the far-right regime of Viktor Orbán unbearable are apt to think of the Antall-Boross governments’ conservative system as a liberal heaven in comparison. But let’s not get carried away. Seeds of many of the political sins of today were sown by the conservative coalition of József Antall, whose good friend was Péter Boross. Thanks to that friendship Boross made a fantastic political career. First as undersecretary in the prime minister’s office and within months as minister of the interior. Once Antall died, he was chosen by his party to become prime minister.

Those of you who would like to learn more about Boross should read my post on him, which includes a brief biography. I also wrote a longer piece in Hungarian for the by-now defunct Galamus. In addition, I discovered a 2002 tongue-in cheek article by Gáspár Miklós Tamás (TGM) titled “An example for the progressive youth.” The conclusion is that Hungary’s former prime minister is a not very smart, reactionary, bigoted, narrow-minded man who was ill-suited for a political career in the first place. But, let’s face it, Hungary’s first democratically elected government was absolutely full of these characters.

The interview appeared in Magyar Hírlap, a far-right paper that is supportive of Fidesz. It was somewhere in the middle of the interview that Tamás Pindroch, a journalist whose views are not far from those of Boross, asked him whether he shares the widely-held view that the would-be immigrants cannot adapt to European norms because of their “cultural differences.” The civilizations where these people are coming from are so different from our own that adjustment is impossible. Of course, we know that this is the view Viktor Orbán holds who, in my opinion, defines “culture” in a very narrow sense. Since he denies that multi-national Hungary was a multi-cultural country, we must assume that for Orbán cultural difference means religious difference, Christian versus Muslim.

Boross, Magyar Hirlap

Boross, as it turned out, doesn’t share that view. Let me quote the crucial sentences:

Today no one dares to say that immigration is not a cultural but an ethnic problem. Namely, millions arrive in Europe whose languages and skin colors are different from those of Europeans. It is important to note that they don’t just come from different cultures but their psychic apparatus, their biological and genetic endowments are different. It is a well-known fact that in Western Europe third-generation immigrants oppose the nations that took them in. What kind of conclusion can we draw from this? If it were simply a question of culture, they should have adjusted a long time ago: they attended school in the countries they live in, they speak the language, they are familiar with the customs and behavior of Europeans. Cultural integration doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked with the Gypsies, although they have lived with us for hundreds of years. In this case, there is not much of a chance that it will work with masses of Muslims who are crossing our borders.

Liberal publications were shocked and condemned Boross for his racist remarks, but Válasz, a pro-Fidesz publication, was also critical. The article argued that after the appearance of this interview, all those who consider people “who don’t welcome the new arrivals with EU flags in hand bigoted and narrow-minded racists” will be able to point to the racist remarks of the former prime minister. Right-wing politicians in the West would never resort to such language. Listing cultural differences is enough for them.

Admittedly, Boross’s racist remarks were shocking, but I wouldn’t ignore some of his other observations which, though they might not touch on sensitive race issues, also manifest an attitude that is not far from the thinking of many Hungarians, politicians and non-politicians alike.

Although Boross covered many topics, I will pick only a couple that I found the most interesting. One such topic was the European Union. A careful reading of the text reveals that, as far as the former prime minister is concerned, Hungary would be much better off if she didn’t belong to the Union. He states that if there were only independent nation states in Europe, “this flood could easily have been stopped.” In what way it would have been easier to handle the problem, he neglects to tell us. But since the existence of the EU is a given, at least its important organizations shouldn’t be situated in Brussels, Strasbourg, and the Hague, which are strongholds of “western left-liberalism.” And since the EU is expanding eastward, it would be logical to change the venue of EU institutions. Somewhere in the former East Germany would be an excellent place.

What should the European Union do with the flood of immigrants? The answer is certainly not a quota system, which would divvy up the immigrants among the member states. What the EU needs is an army. Such an army, together with the military of the United States, should achieve peace by military force in the troubled regions, after which the immigrants can be sent back to where they came from. This joint military effort should be financed “from the money of the Americans because they were the ones who, without any thought for the future, began a war in the region.”

Boross then shared his golden thoughts on the United States. We learn that “the Americans live in a culture of competition without any human content.” When he talks about culture, he warns that the word must be put between shudder quotes because American culture is “the culture of the ‘half-learned'” (félművelt). Then he elaborates.

What I mean is that the Americans reward the stronger over the weaker in every case. In the United States the strong can trample on the weak without any interference. They call their system “absolute democracy.” After they became a superpower, they thought that democracy as it functions at their place will follow the “Arab spring.”… They are intellectually unfit to lead the world. Rome back then was wise because it left the conquered territories in peace and accepted some of the gods of the conquered as their own. Washington does exactly the opposite, it wants to force its own god, democracy, upon the conquered lands. (emphasis mine)

For Péter Boross democracy is something the Americans want to foist on every country, including Hungary. But Boross and his ilk want nothing to do with the god of the Americans, who after all are totally unfit to dictate anything to anyone.

It seems that Boross is right on one point: the United States doesn’t think that Hungarian democracy is thriving under Viktor Orbán. Moreover, it has the temerity to say so. This is the message Secretary of State John Kerry sent on the occasion of Hungary’s national holiday, which will be celebrated tomorrow:

On behalf of President Obama and the citizens of the United States, I offer heartfelt congratulations to the people of Hungary as you commemorate Saint Stephen’s Day this August 20th.

Today, we recall and pay tribute to the rich history of Hungary and to the great unifier, King Stephen I. The United States is proud to have honored his legacy by protecting the Crown of St. Stephen on behalf of the Hungarian people after the Second World War. This day is one of personal significance for me, moreover, as my own paternal grandmother was from Budapest.

The strong and enduring ties that exist between the United States and Hungary can be seen in our shared membership in the NATO Alliance, our mutual support for a sovereign and democratic Ukraine, our thriving economic and trade relationship, and a multitude of familial and cultural connections. To further our common interests, it is vital that we uphold transatlantic values including democracy and good governance, both in our own countries and around the world.

On this special day, the United States wishes the people of Hungary continued peace and a future filled with prosperity and joy.

Foolish, foolish, half-educated Americans still believe in democracy. Although the Americans, according to Boross, trample on the weak and the defenseless, Mr. Kerry most likely would be terribly shocked if he heard that a former prime minister of Hungary and an adviser to the present one thinks that human considerations must be set aside in the current immigration crisis. “Unfortunately, the opposition media, playing on human emotions, show crying children and thus manipulate public opinion. But in this question the fate of our nation takes priority. We must push human considerations into the background in handling this crisis.” Boross doesn’t have to worry. Viktor Orbán’s government has been doing just that for months by now.

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August 20, 2015 2:55 am

I went to Keleti train station yesterday (and will do so again today) to donate old clothes and some basic food. There are about a thousand displaced people there, sleeping out in the rain in the underpasses – men, women, children and babies.

I would suggest that anyone living in Budapest or coming to Budapest today (I guess thousands will pass through Keleti today on their way to enjoy the national holiday celebrations) also donate what you have.

Because as far as I can see, the state is doing absolutely nothing apart from allowing access to some tap water, and putting up ‘Do not litter’ signs in English and Arabic.

That it is up to ad hoc Facebook groups and a few individual citizens to help these people, I find very depressing.

August 20, 2015 4:44 am

Good Boross piece, Éva.

The link to the TGM article is inaccessible [‘forbidden’].


Bitstream Fractalized
August 20, 2015 6:55 am

Huhh, caught a nazi! Now you can sleep well, Eva!

August 20, 2015 9:18 am

You’re lookin’ good, Facialized …
Sorry, Eva and everybody else – I just had to do this …

That site is full of moving and sometimes funny pictures btw.

August 20, 2015 10:35 am
Re: on the ‘wise’ Mr. Boross… Just have to say no wonder the state of democracy in Magyarorszag today becomes ‘ rossz, rossz and more rossz’. Unfortunately individuals like Boross add to the piling on of negative and I’ll say unintelligent criticism onto democratic traditions and the countries that espouse them. No wonder democracy is back on its heels throughout the world and poisons like anti-Semitism and hatred of the ‘other’ grow exponentially in the country. Individuals like this continually till the soil, water its flowers and simply provide the dirt for others to throw around. If I am of the ‘culture of the half-learned’ I would say I would expect a bit more perspicacity from an 87 year old who obviously believes power should be dispersed by a strong ‘dictator’ rather than through true democratic consensus. His allusion to Roman behavior would apparently find himself at home in the days of the heady Republic where ‘dictators’ ran rampant. It was one-man rule of the day. While it is true the United States is a much much younger nation than Magyarorszag and does not have say its ancient historical pedigree the country arguably has tried to take the best of… Read more »
August 20, 2015 11:55 am
Mr. Boross has a curious and confused perspective on my county the United States. But it is true that the US attempts to export democracy in what appears to be the abstract to other nations, we have numerous agencies that do this for example the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (US State Department), DRL Programs, Including Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF), Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). There are also numerous NGOs that do the same thing based here in the US. I agree unfortunately with Mr. Boross that my government made serious errors in the Middle East, but those errors were not based on some type of power mania that Mr. Boross apparently believes drives my nation’s foreign policy objectives liked with our “own god, democracy.” My own experience indicates that we most often promote “democracy” to open markets and promote forms of capitalism that enable beneficial trading relations for the US. Democracy as we know it is inherently linked to free market capitalism and is not really democracy in the abstract. The real debates here in… Read more »
August 20, 2015 6:53 pm

Re: next US President

It’s worth noting that the Democrats have a clear advantage in the electoral college for next year’s election:

Though not impossible for the GOP to overcome, this will make it harder for their candidate to win the election vs. the Dems.

August 21, 2015 8:28 am
Re:”My own experience indicates that we most often promote “democracy” to open markets and promote forms of capitalism that enable beneficial trading relations for the US. Democracy as we know it is inherently linked to free market capitalism and is not really democracy in the abstract” And I’d suggest we are somewhat far from the original democratic tradition as conceived by groups in the Greek polis and had its heyday in 5th century Athens. Democracy indeed has morphed a bit through the centuries in some of its trappings but for the most part it still contains what the founders envisioned and that is the concern for human rights, freedom and that it is the people that are the ‘ruling body’ of the nation not those ‘tyrants’ that the Greeks gave to our modern vocabulary. With Boross and those of his persuasion they obviously believe in adding adjectives usually pejorative to the famous Greek ‘tradition’ that looks like the U.S. and a few other countries still adhere to. That’s that ‘illiberal democracy’ bit. But the kicker there is that the new creation Boross obviously likes is an oxymoron supposedly made a ‘public good’ for its society but really operates as a… Read more »
August 20, 2015 11:58 am

Thanks again, Istvan, for that concise analysis of US policies re Islam with which I fully agree – it’s a sorry situation.

Not too much OT:
It seems to me that really old politicians (like other people too …) either get mellow or a bit strange in the head. Two examples from Germany:
Ex Chancellor Mr Kohl of the Christian Democrats was best man at a wedding of one of his long term advisors – to another man …
Ex Chancellor Mr Schroeder of the Social Democrats called Putin “a pure democrat” …