I am writing my Sunday Open Letter for the 400th time, but this is not the only thing that makes this week’s essay special. The Orbán government’s ridiculous trifling with the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO is causing severe damage not only to the Hungarian government but unfortunately also to Hungary itself. At a time when alliances and friendships are gaining in value, Fidesz is only making more enemies. I felt it was essential for me, as a Hungarian MEP, to take a strong stand on this matter and assure the Swedish and Finnish public that there is another Hungary that does not agree with Fidesz’s foolish muscle-flexing. So that they know: Viktor Orbán is not equal to Hungary. My opinion piece on this has been published on a major Swedish news portal dealing with European affairs, and it is expected to be published in the Finnish media in the coming days. You can read the English version below:
Viktor Orbán Not Equal to Hungary!
„The world depends on having someone have your back to catch you if you fall,” I recently read a book by Finnish writer Kari Hotakainen. This line stuck with me. Not only because, as a father of six, I carry the sweet yet crushing burden of never-ending responsibility in my guts, but also because the growing shadow of marginalization and alienation hanging over my country keeps haunting me, and the latter is particularly painful for a proud Hungarian patriot. Especially when forces beyond and against me are responsible for all this. This time, for example, for the Hungarian Parliament (representing the only EU Member State) still not having approved the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Out of sheer arrogance, petty vindictiveness and stupid muscle-flexing. Fidesz is messing with Sweden and Finland on behalf of all Hungarians, but rest assured: Viktor Orbán is not equal to the whole of Hungary! The Fidesz government does not represent the interests of the entire Hungarian nation, but only those of narrow, money-grubbing elite, moreover, clearly as a third-ranking player trapped in the dark blackmail of a complex world power game.
The Hotakainen book referred to earlier („The Life Dealer”) is a humorous yet melancholic novel about our present age, where everything is subject to bargain, where we trade primarily in images and words instead of real things. Digressing from the actual story of the book, this is pretty much what Orbán and Fidesz are doing in Hungary: trading in images and words. Instead of building social welfare, they keep their electorate (or more precisely – and I have to be honest here – for a long time now the majority of Hungarian voters) in an intoxicating haze with well-conceived communication tools, false but appealing visions, fake enemies that are repeatedly displayed all over the place and inciting posters that cost billions of forints.
There has been no socially sensitive, substantive social policy for a long time, only the salvaging and transfer of the wealth accumulated over the last decade, by legislative violence or economic mafia means. And messing with the European Union and its Member States is part of this show, too.
Viktor Orbán has built his illiberal regime with deliberately and with frightening talent, which the European Union and our Western allies have long watched paralysed, tolerating its viral expansion or simply underestimating and ignoring the intent behind it all and the dangers it entails. Hello, good morning, allow me to report that the work is done! Moreover, he is sticking his sticks in the spokes, blocking the deepening of European integration and the strengthening of the European Community at every opportunity. The European People’s Party, out of cold self-interest or complete ineptitude, has for many years held a protective umbrella over the illiberal state construction of Orbán and his mates, and now they are futilely trying to chase the genie back into the bottle.
The Hungarian governing party’s blocking of Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO is petty behaviour. A temporary biceps comparison and a bit of courtesy to Moscow’s strange master. It could be debated – as we know is the custom in Western democracies – how well-founded the Swedish and Finnish opinions were in qualifying the Hungarian rule of law (unfortunately, most of them were), but the issue at stake here is whether Hungary, as a member of NATO, wants Sweden and Finland to join this military and defence alliance. Of course, it does. We would be fools not to expand the community that will protect us if we need it.
To quote Hotakainen again: to catch us if we fall. We don’t have to agree on everything, but one thing is certain: we look out for each other when danger is near. And lately, it is not only looming, it is crossing the borders of sovereign states. Orbán and Fidesz are well aware of this, which is why – and I say this as a proud Hungarian – the behaviour they allow themselves to display in this matter is hypocritical, ridiculous and outrageous. This is the way roadside mobs behave, extort and bully. Personally, I am also saddened by the fact that politicians such as the pro-government Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly Zsolt Németh, who is otherwise a committed Euro-Atlanticist and a staunch civic Christian, are being used as puppets for this charade.
The reason I grabbed the keyboard and felt the need to make my position as a Social Democrat Hungarian MEP clear on this issue is that everyone from Brussels to Helsinki, from Kyiv to Stockholm, needs to know that Hungary is not equal to Fidesz. That there is another half of Hungary who are just as proud of their homeland, but who – after centuries of hardship and oppression – finally feel Europe is their home, too, and they want to continue to see it as such. This other Hungary also does not want compromises when it comes to the interests of the Hungarian nation but wants to build bridges and community in the Union, rather than walls and enemies. There have been walls in Europe for too long and too much suffering has been brought about by extreme, blind nationalism disguised as patriotism. Too many generations have been crippled by exclusion, hatred, and uncompromising obstinacy. Viktor Orbán’s violent mafia state is once again pushing Hungary into the dark side of European history. However, it is not Europe’s job, but ours, that of the Hungarian electorate, to replace the illiberal regime of Fidesz. It is up to us to give this other Hungary a chance. As an opposition politician and a Social Democrat MEP, I have a role and a duty in this. And I will do my part.
„The world depends on having someone have your back to catch you if you fall.” This other Hungary will always be behind Europe. Let’s hope Europe is behind us, too.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament (S&D Group)
founder of the Community of Chance (Esély Közösség)