News / Europe

EU Sanctions Threat Fuels Hungary's Far Right

Stefan Bos

The European Union on Tuesday is expected to announce legal action against Hungary because of government measures that critics say move the country toward dictatorship.  But, the EU anticipated measure is fueling far right calls for Hungary to leave the European Union.

Officials of a Hungarian far-right political party known for its perceived anti-Semitic rhetoric and threats against Gypsies, or Roma, recently burned a European Union flag at a rally in front of the European Union offices in Budapest.

Up to 2,000 demonstrators demanded that the country withdraw from the EU during a protest of the Movement for a Better Hungary party, or Jobbik.  Some wore uniforms and others waved flags of Hungary's pro-Nazi regime during World War II.

Shouting anti-EU slogans and "Ria, Ria, Hungaria," demonstrators compared the EU with the Soviet occupation of Hungary decades ago.

Saturday's demonstration came after the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said Hungary would face legal action as early as Tuesday unless it modifies a series of economic and legislative measures that critics say have moved the country toward dictatorship.

The European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, says Hungary has not done enough to keep its budget deficits within European Union limits.  There is concern that Hungary's center-right government has been balancing its books by imposing a tax on predominantly foreign companies, while nationalizing private pensions.

Rehn says these actions do not translate into a permanent improvement in Hungary's budget and that the European Commission might suspend massive subsidies destined for Budapest.

"It could, nevertheless, face a suspension of commitments from the cohesion fund from next year from January 2013 onwards," said Rehn. "In the absence of [a budgetary] correction from Hungary, I will coordinate any further step in that direction."

That could cost Hungary as much $1.5 billion a year in EU subsidies.  The European Commission has also expressed concern about the perceived autocratic style of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz political party.  They used their two-thirds parliamentary majority to adopt a constitution and related laws that critics say move this once communist nation toward dictatorship.

European Commission Spokeswoman, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen:

"The concerns relate to a number of issues, including the independence of the national central bank, the measures concerning the judiciary and particular mandatory early retirement of judges and prosecutors at the age of 62 instead of 70, and finally, the independence of the national data protection authority," said Hansen.

The Hungarian government says it is “committed to universal European values” and that it is “ready for negotiations and to find solutions” with the European Commission about its concerns.

But Prime Minister Orban says differences remain on issues such as the independence of Hungary's central bank and that he will listen to "arguments, not political opinions."

Analysts say his comments are meant to win voters from the far-right Jobbik party - the second largest political force in Hungary.

Jobbik leader Gabor Vona recently told reporters that there is an EU attack against Hungary.

"What the Hungarian government got from Brussels and the European Commission is not a little knock or a smack, but a kick in the head, while Hungarians are on the ground," said Vona.

At the other side of the debate are moderate Hungarians who welcome the EU's pressure.  Among them are television reporter Aranka Szavuly and her supporters who are camped outside the headquarters of state-run Hungarian television.

Szavuly says they are particularly concerned about legislation and other measures that allow government allies to influence the content of news programs.

"We kept a hunger strike in front of the building of the television because in the past few months and weeks, there were lot's of stories when the staff was manipulating the news," said Szavuly. "And we all knew that was not right."

Szavuly and fellow TV journalist Balazs Nagy Navarro recently were fired for participating in the hunger strike.  And a Budapest radio station, Klubradio, which has been critical of the government, faces closure because authorities say its license will not be renewed.

Navarro says his struggle goes beyond party politics and that in the two decades since the collapse of communism, the real issue is how to preserve press freedom and other democratic values for future generations.

"We are at a crossroads and I think we still have time to restore democracy, which is threatened; restore constitutionality, which is threatened by the new basic law which is an odd constitution," said Navarro. "We should stop this because when somebody has a two-thirds majority, they think they can do whatever [they want]."

Analysts say there might not be much time left as Hungary seeks as much as $26 billion in financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.  The IMF has told Hungary's chief negotiator that talks about the country's request will resume only if the country changes contested legislation.   

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid