January 31, 2012
Following the situation in Hungary, we have asked three youngsters with different political opinions to share their thoughts on the matter, hoping to have a better understanding of what’s happening.
Gergely, 29, pro-government, holds a MA in Economics and Political Sciences from Budapest Corvinus University
The Hungarian society has been severely damaged throughout the last 100 years and it is very much traumatizing. Let us think of the Treaty of Trianon/Versailles in 1919 which handed two-third of the country’s territory and ethnic Hungarian population to foreign countries. Hence, restoring the Hungarian citizenship for those minorities and stating in the new Constitution that the government feels responsible for them, might indeed interfere with European standards, but I feel it is a moral obligation to any Hungarian with some sense of consciousness.
Our seek for the restoration of former Hungary was corrupted, which lead us to be a vassal of Nazi Germany during WWII, which then lead us to the tragedy of the Holocaust. Afterwards came 40 years of Soviet occupation. These continuous vassal-ships make the Hungarian public hostile towards European policy makers, feeling that they are teaching us what is democratic and what is not. After the fall of communism, the Hungarian society was united in its unconditional will to join the European Union. Ever since, many of us see ourselves as a country colonized by Western European big money. So, when the Orbán government puts forward a crisis tax on utilities and financial institutions which affects mostly Western European companies, what do we see afterwards? Foreign governments and journalists, as well as the IMF/EU, threatening to apply sanctions, attacking our democratically-elected government, and teaching us what is democratic and what is not.
However, I believe the current government fails to understand and remedy the wounds of Hungarian left-wing society. Hence the steps taken to control the historically left-wing entities: media, jurisdiction, Central Bank, etc. The most important step would be to find the way of reconciliation and mutual understanding between the various groups of society. Personally, I feel that the government has its share of mistakes, and I believe it would be good if its supporters could also protest against those mistakes, regardless of the fact that we fairly elected it, and continue to stand by it.
Sarolta, 28, pro-changes, holds a MA in English and Hungarian Studies from Budapest ELTE-BTK University
To me, the current changes have a lot to do with our history. Indeed, these changes target the areas that typically involve historical roots and bear the imprint of the communist era in Hungary. It is reasonable then that our history, especially the year 1989 is to be taken into consideration when wanting to understand these new directions… It is a common knowledge, especially among the ’intellligentsia’ of the generation above, now in their 50s, 60s, that the change of regime was not complete in 1989 (former Communist politicians got to keep their positions in the government). Hence their support for Orban.
And, hence the dissatisfaction – was there really a change of regime after 1989? – which now seems to manifest in let’s call it, a renewing of the foundations and content of our state and statemanship: a new Constitution, which, I think is indeed necessary, as the former one was written under Communism. However, I believe it important to take into consideration the current opposition protests. As each and every protest, they are legitimate and inform us that these changes are not fully accepted. It can bring to the surface what people affected by laws (or principles) think and feel, and to what extent. The reaction of the government is also always very telling – how they communicate, interpret protests and what answers they give – or whether they want to give or just evade answering problems.
Finally, concerning the EU/IMF issue, I would like the government to choose an option that fits into the picture of both European and Hungarian economic well-being and thus I believe the government should take measures to ensure we head out from our current economic situation, and therefore should consider more seriously the deal with the EU/IMF.
Attila, 28, pro-opposition, holds a MA in Political Sciences from Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium, now lives in Budapest
I believe the changes operated by the government do, indeed, have roots in our history, however it shouldn’t, and that’s the whole issue here. Many reasons have led to this situation. First, giving a 2/3 majority to a country – and to a political party – that has so little experience and maturity in democracy was a mistake. I believe this mistake allowed the Fidesz to consider itself legitimate and responsible to wipe out all remains of communism, and crossing limits. It is no surprise that the situation in Hungary is a unique case in Europe. Maybe we should ask ourselves why. Second, the 2/3 majority was led by two main causes: firstly because of the incapacity of the Socialist Party during the post-Communist era which contributed to a global loss of trust from the people of Hungary, and secondly because of the economic crisis, which amplified the desperate wish of the people to see a radical change happen. Those two causes were the main factors for the rise of the Fidesz. With such a majority, it was obvious the Fidesz would feel legitimate to change a Constitution that had roots in the Communist era into a right-wing Constitution.
However, my opinion is the following: I think these changes are obsolete. Indeed, these are not modern ideas. These changes prove that the government is still fighting against its old communist demons, still lives in the nostalgia of glorious times when Hungary was a great empire, and plays on the nostalgia of the people, allowing itself to influence them. I believe the Fidesz, consciously or unconsciously, uses the tough modern history of Hungary to its advantage. Not only regarding the Communist era, but also regarding the periods of time where Hungary was invaded by the stranger: the Turkish, the Austrians, the Nazis, the Soviets. A huge sentiment of loneliness and isolation has grown in Hungary, increased by the continuous sentiment of failure for the fight for freedom (Trianon, loss of the two WWs, the 1956 revolution). Hence, the Fidesz wants to make a clean cut from this difficult past, but instead keeps falling back into it.
All in all, these ideas have no place in the EU, especially as youngsters, the so-called “Erasmus generation”, have no origins in the Communist era. The government doesn’t understand that by having joined the EU, it can finally put the past behind and ground a whole new country and nation, using all the advantages the EU provides. It is time for Hungary to stop looking in the past and to start looking at the future, instead. A solution would be to open the wounds and talk about it, as the Germans did after Nazism. Although Communism delayed it, this solution would allow Hungary to finally move forward. Let’s hope then that democracy is still alive and this period be forgotten and the 2/3 majority mistake be learned.
« Cécile Viault holds a Master Degree in International Politics from the University of Warwick in the UK, and is a collaborator with ThinkYoung. »
Author : thinkyoung