News / Europe

EU Sanctions Threat Fuels Hungary's Far Right

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid