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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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 Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid