We must abandon the refugees who are waiting in vain to board a train to Vienna and beyond because at the moment no one knows what the Hungarian government’s plans are regarding their fate. By the time I could finish a post about them, my report would be hopelessly outdated. Therefore, I’d rather move to a seemingly “safer” subject: Fidesz politicians’ view of Hungary’s position vis-à-vis the European Union as the source of Hungary’s current grievances over the refugee crisis.
Two or three days ago I talked about the growing chasm in attitudes between East and West as far as the refugee crisis is concerned. The dividing line is more or less where the iron curtain used to be. A huge difference in public attitudes on many issues still exists even between West and East Germans. Almost half a century of Soviet influence left a lasting mark on national psyches.
We have of course long been aware of the political, economic, and cultural differences between East and West, but there was always the hope of “convergence,” to use a term officials of the European Union are especially fond of. But now, under the weight of the refugee crisis, seemingly irreconcilable differences have surfaced. The western countries are ready to cooperate and adhere to the common values upon which the Union was built. The former socialist countries think only in terms of nation states, which is no answer to a pan-European crisis.
Clinging to national sovereignty, thinking only in terms of the particular instead of the general is an attitude that doesn’t bode well for the health of EU. How can there be unity if the politicians of the former socialist states don’t come to their senses? And in Hungary’s case the politicians aren’t showing any such inclination. In fact, if anything the opposite is true. As time goes by, statements by leading Fidesz politicians are even less acceptable to those who believe in the future of Europe as a more closely knit union of member states where the common good overrides purely national interests.
Let’s sample some of the prevailing attitudes within Fidesz. János Lázár, who heads the prime minister’s office, is more or less responsible for the everyday management of the country, if you can call it management. Most critics would call it floundering, which is not too harsh a judgment if we look at the government’s handling of the registration of refugees. In any event, he is the most important man in the country after Viktor Orbán, and he is also the de facto voice of the prime minister. In Lázár’s opinion the European Union is an institution under the influence of the left, and all politicians of the left are incompetent. The result: economic and political ruin.
The same theme crops up in a much cruder form in a press release by the Antal Rogán-led Fidesz parliamentary delegation. According to the Fidesz delegation, the leadership of the European Union is not merely influenced by the mistaken notions of the European left; European politicians are actively working against the Christian, national right-wing Orbán government in order to weaken it. As proof of their position they cite the “fact” that the European Union gave a lucrative job to a company owned by Ferenc Gyurcsány for the express purpose of strengthening the Hungarian left against the legitimate government of Hungary. As the press release put it: “The European Commission bought Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalícó by the pound, and therefore it is not surprising that Gyurcsány parrots the failed immigration policies of the European Union.” It’s hard to respond to such a ridiculous conspiracy theory from a high-level politician.
Rogán elaborated on the same theme in an interview he gave to Napi Gazdaság, which as of yesterday has been renamed Magyar Idők (Hungarian Times). He severely criticized the European Union for its immigration policies, which practically amount to encouragement to emigrate. Rogán seems to sense that the western big guns are getting mighty annoyed and making noises about the restoration of internal borders within the Schengen frontiers, but he believes that Hungary’s current plans to stop all asylum seekers at the Serb-Hungarian and perhaps later the Croatian-Hungarian border will be the remedy. If Rogán’s ideas reflect Viktor Orbán’s notions, then I’m sure the prime minister is on the wrong track.The introduction of harsh measures, the deployment of the army, and the enactment of undemocratic laws is no solution.
In the same interview Rogán bared his feelings about the Middle Eastern refugees when he declared that he wouldn’t want “his grandchildren to live in the United European Caliphate.” This kind of talk only reinforces the population’s worries about the refugees, which is undoubtedly the intention of the government. The Hungarian intelligence services have already informed the Parliamentary Commission on National Security about the large number of terrorists they identified among the asylum seekers even though real terrorists are unlikely to arrive in Europe on foot and climb under or over Orbán’s fence. Unlike the refugees, they can buy plane tickets.
The same theme was echoed by Szilárd Németh, an important Fidesz politician. According to him, those members of parliament who don’t support the Fidesz amendments to the criminal code “unequivocally prove that they place the interests of the immigrants ahead of those of the Hungarians.” The situation that developed at the Keleti (Eastern) Station “will not be solved by politicians,” especially not by those irresponsible EU politicians like Jean-Claude Junker “who practically encourage people to come without fear because there will be no problem once they are here. . . . We, on the other hand,” he added, “stand by the current laws” of the European Union.
At the end of his press conference Németh indicated that it was Viktor Orbán who initiated the meeting with Jean-Claude Junker, Donald Tusk, and Martin Schulz scheduled for tomorrow. I’m not so sure that this was the case. Given the firm stand of the western member countries on the immigrant issue, I have the feeling that the invitation came from Brussels. It is becoming increasingly obvious that they are seeking a common policy that would entail each country taking a certain number of refugees, the kind of quota system Viktor Orbán earlier categorically rejected. Those who refuse to play ball will be in one way or the other “disciplined.”
A few days ago I suggested that I would not be shocked if Viktor Orbán, despite all the noise he has been making, would eventually cave. He certainly hasn’t caved yet, but the Hungarian ambassador to Berlin, József Czukor, in an interview with ZDF, a public television station, suggested that perhaps under certain circumstances a solution that would distribute the immigrants among member states could be discussed after all. The interviewer was greatly surprised and asked Czukor again about the issue. The ambassador repeated that “this problem must be solved together.” The interview can be seen here.
What kinds of “certain circumstances” was the ambassador talking about? I fear that what the Hungarian prime minister has in mind is the acceptance by the European Union of Hungary’s plan to seal the Serb-Hungarian border so tight that no one would be able to enter the European Union on land through the Balkans. In that case, Hungary would accept a few hundred refugees. If that is the case, Viktor Orbán’s trip might not be a success. I am sure that the western democracies are demanding close cooperation and humane treatment of deserving refugees and will reject the solution, with its attendant draconian measures, advocated by the Hungarian government.