“We created the opportunity to defend Hungary. A great battle is behind us. We have achieved a decisive victory.”
After the FIDEZ-KDNP alliance gave Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán 133 out of 199 seats in the April parliamentary elections, where anti-immigrant and anti-EU liberal ideology was contested in a hostile campaign, the prime minister said that the vote was a decisive victory to defend the country.
After the election victory, Orbán is out to make good of his campaign promises, which aim to undermine further the country’s judiciary, academic and liberal democracy.
New laws, called Stop Soros legislation, aim to hit NGOs that help “illegal” migrants and with up to a year in prison terms and slap a 25% tax on associations that support immigration. One of the aims of the law, which is intentionally vague to grant wide enforcement powers, aims to protect what Orbán calls “Christian culture.”
The correct question to ask is what does “Christian culture” mean and what does it imply for the future of religious freedom in Hungary never mind democracy.
Zoltan Fleck, a professor of the faculty of law at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest, was quoted as saying in a BBC documentary that Hungary would not have qualified to become an EU member under the present system.
Balint Josa, who is program coördinator for United for Intercultural Action in Budapest, said that the new laws aim to impede the work of NGOs so that cooperation will be ever-difficult.
“In spite of the laws,” said Josa, who was publicly listed by the Orbán government as “an enemy” of the state, “NGOs should be vigilant and help each other because what is happening in Hungary can happen elsewhere in Europe. Populism is very attractive because it is an easy and fast way you get power.”
Josa warned that Hungary is inspiring similar Islamophobic and xenophobic populists in other European countries.
“[EU] Europe is based on cooperation and what they [the populists] offer is separation,” he continued. “They don’t offer any solutions in any areas.”
I compare the present health of the European Union to a patient with Alzheimer’s. In only four years, the deterioration is apparent. The difference is so pronounced that shocks you.
Before four years, matters were different from today. There was no Brexit, the growing presence of the Visegrád Group members such as Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Czechia as an anti-EU and anti-migration lobbying group, and plans by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to form this year an “axis of the willing” with Italy and Germany.
It should not surprise us that the rallying cry for the above is that magic word, “immigration,” which offers aspiring politicians the fastest route to gain power.
Considering that matters will get worse before they improve in Europe, the question we should ask is where polarization and hostility towards difference are taking us.
The answer to that question is right under our noses. It is in the violent and genocidal history of Europe. That is why these asylum seekers are doing us a favor by exposing the deeply embedded racism in Europe. Their presence and some of our reactions to them help expose the problem.
Like Charles P. Pierce wrote in the Esquire, about the migrants from Mexico and Central America and how they are separated from their children. “One day, maybe, brave Guatemalan mothers and their very brave children may be said to have saved the American Republic from slow-motion and giddy suicide. Some even may be our fellow citizens by then, and we should remember to thank them.”
The same if the truth for non-EU migrants coming to Europe from regions like Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan.