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Is the governing party of Hungary really an anti-EU party?

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What responsibility do we bloggers have when we choose the expression of “an anti-EU party” for describing the governing party of Hungary?

Fidesz is definitely not one of those easy-to-grasp parties. Just remember how proud Hungary was of its EU Presidency at the beginning of 2011, over half a year into the Fidesz government. I would say that despite the sometimes ironic or even hostile tones some members of the party allow themselves, Fidesz is still perfectly well aware of the fact that without EU support and cooperation within the EU, Hungary would find itself in a very difficult situation in our globalising world.

Hungary takes over the EU presidency in early 2011

Hungary does have a rabid anti-EU party in its Parliament, but it’s not Fidesz. The growing number of supporters of this party, the Jobbik (which literally means ’the Better’ and ’the Right’) causes many sleepless nights to those anxious about the future of European values in Hungary.

My special concern about attitudes to Fidesz might come from my “inside” view which makes me fear that Jobbik might well win the next elections. In my opinion, a true dyed-in-the-wool anti-EU party is like Jobbik – which keeps reiterating that Hungary has to get out of the EU as soon as possible, rejects the Lisbon Treaty in its official party programme, and considers itself explicitly as an anti-EU party.

Just to give one typical example: in early 2012, in response to José Manuel Barroso’s letter – in which he asked for reconsideration of laws contradicting EU treaties – Jobbik organized a protest under the slogan “Should we stay members or should we break free?,” echoing a well known Hungarian poem “Should we remain prisoners or should we break free?” The party leader claimed that the EU restrains the sovereignty of Hungary and called for a referendum about quitting the community to be held soon. At the end of the demo, the deputy leader of Jobbik and a man introduced as a ‘fighter in the 1956 revolution’ burned the EU flag .

The far-right Jobbik party burns the EU flag and calls for Hungary to exit the EU

In its official party program Jobbik explicitly declares that the future of Hungary is not imaginable in an EU developed on its present lines. The number of Jobbik voters has risen at a stunning rate. Ironically, since the 2009 EP elections where they won 3 of the 22 Hungarian mandates, it has managed to earn 47 seats in the Hungarian Parliament (386 seats) in 2010, while the former ruling party, the MSZP, won a mere 59 seats(!). This made Jobbik  the third most influential political force in the country. By 2012, its number of members is reported to be around 13 000, while the percentage of Jobbik voters stands at 10% of the whole population. Fidesz has 24% and the Socialist party has 14%, while 43%(!) of the population is undecided. (Data by Századvég, August 2012).

In the meantime, Fidesz tries to balance things out and satisfy the EU in the most important issues. On the whole, Orbán and his government have been willing to accept EU criticism and cooperate in the modification of many of their decisions, such as the highly conntroversial media law or the early retiriement age for judges. Negotiations are still on-going for the (much modified) Central Bank law, but it is obvious that the government is willing to cooperate in this question as well, even if it stubbornly insists on holding on to some of its ideas. Fidesz is very well aware  of how important it is to be a Member State – even if its rhetoric – like the notorious “We won’t be a colony” speech by Viktor Orbán might point in the opposite direction.

So I think that branding the politics of Fidesz as virulently anti-EU might well blur the difference between the real right-wing, anti-EU political forces (supported by paramilitary groups) and Fidesz. The latter is actually still a mainstream party of sorts and knows the limits of the game.

Seen from the outside, the changes made by the Fidesz government look dramatic enough. Yet here in Hungary we know that there might still be something even worse to come. If we raise the bar so high in our diatribes against Fidesz, what expressions can we use to condemn truly radical anti-EU fringe groups if at some point they come to power?

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