It is truely amazing to observe how pertinaciously and forcefully some of the international media can repeat certain allegations – partly or entirely incorrect or false – ad nauseam. Their authors have a propensity for picking and focusing on conservative governments and countries, condemning them for „restricting political rights”, „stifling the freedom of speech”, „subverting democracy” and the like, parroting the same accusations over and over again, often without a solid idea of what really goes on in the country in question.
For some time now, the most frequented targets have been Poland and Hungary, sometimes both together. The latter combination is well illustrated by a rather detailed piece of writing in Social Europe by Grzegorz Ekiert in August 2017 titled „How to Deal with Poland and Hungary”, a prime example of unfounded attacks, based, as usually, in a large part on ignorance and misinformation.
Already the title is somewhat menacing, especially as it turns out from the article (see later), that “deal” could easily be substituted by „punish”, which is exactly what the author really means. That he is contemptuous of the given countries becomes obvious from the lenghty text itself. The summary and totally erroneous judgement comes right in the begining, out of the blue, as it were. No examples or explanations to illustrate the accusations, not to mention an effort to try to prove or verify them. Take one of the first sentences:
„…..the Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ) government launched legal attacks on civil society organizations by restricting the activities of opposition parties and revising laws governing higher edication in an effort to destroy the Central European University (CEU).
Let us look at this statement in a little detail.
The truth is that no one launched any attacks on civil societies, of which there are more than 60 thousand in Hungary, all functioning without any restriction, whatsoever. Attacking them would not be possible anyway by „restricting the activities of the opposition” even if it was intended; we have here a case of apples and oranges. Parties, by the way, are also quite numerous and thriving, especially with the elections approaching; every party receives state support by law in the campain.
But the finishing part of the quote reiterates perhaps the worst distortion in the past months and weeks. Rather than intending to destroy the CEU, as the author states, the government wants it to function legally and fall in line with all the other universities, and continue to function in the same general legal framework, which it has continuously neglected in the past. That the CEU and its sponsors spread false rumors internationally is no excuse.
Further, and still on the first page: „In both countries , the authoritarian institutional system has been established, giving largely unrestricted political power to the ruling party. While they are still not dictatorships, the potential for authoritarian rule increases considerably with every new legislation expanding the power of the government.” This would be laughable if it were not revoltingly untrue. Where does the author get all this nonsense from?
The next part of the article, in which they reprint an earlier conversation between the author and a Henning Meyer (March 2017) starts with a truly ominous sentence: „...Professor Janos Kornai, the most distinguished Hungarian social scientist, claimed that Hungary is no longer a democratic country.” Now, apart from the fact that Kornai is perhaps „the most distinguished social scientist” for only a small, well-definiable circle of people, by his statement he brings such discredit on himself that we should not take him seriously.
Statements by interlocutor Mr. Meyer include the following: „They (the government) do not hesitate to ignore the opposition and public opinion”, and „...voices of the opposition and civil society are completely ignored.” To this I will say, hold the horses, gentlemen; nothing could be further from the truth. As for public opinion for instance, the current Orbán government has introduced the system of national consultations, whereby they regularly seek the opinion of the people on vital social and political questions. Give me another European country including the „most democratic” ones, where such a system exists. In Hungary, it has proven even more effective than a referendum, also held frequently. So who is ignoring whom and where?
Further, how can anyone seriously believe that the Constitution (the legal constitution of the country accepted by Parliament after the Soviet occupation) is „...a threat to the rule of law and democratic standards”? Perhaps because the Preamble makes reference to Christianity (our Christian heritage) unlike the European Constitution, or because at one point it says that marriage is a bond between a man and the woman?
The rest of the interview, in which they describe the Polish situation as „bizarre”, deals mainly with Poland, in the same aggressive manner. A responsible and appropriate answer to the accusations in this section should perhaps be given by a Polish person or someone having spent enough time in Poland to be aware of the real situation there.
One thing, however, we need to raise here.
Throughout the article, the author keeps referring to – never specified - fundemental European values, which are lacking in, or are regularly violated by, Poland and Hungary. Now, this is the most shameful and hypocritical part of the whole piece of writing. What values is Mr Ekiert talking about? Is he talking about a misguided and uncritical sense of solidarity (with migrants) as a result of which hundreds of people died only this year in terrorist attacks, some of the perpetrators of which, together with other, as yet unidentified criminals, are freely roaming all over Western Europe these days, or is he talking about human rights, one of the fuzziest concepts, which every country interprets and violates to its liking? Is national sovereignity a European value? Is Christianity a fundemantal European value at a time when its very mention is left out of its Constitution, when some countries ban the Christmas tree and other universal Christian symbols, including the cross, which they remove from the streets, from schools and public places? Isn't it ironic to talk so much about fundamental European values when (Western) Europe has been rapidly discarding its fundemantal and traditional values, such as e.g. the family? In most European countries notably in Germany, in some of its provinces the German population is drastically decreasing, because far too few babies are born. Is human life still a European value? What is the author talking about?
Mr. Ekiert, Poland is not „bizarre”. What is bizarre is your judgement of values and the essence of democracy, and that you should flaunt European values and set them as good exmples, at a time that Europe is going through its worst loss of values and identity crisis.
For the answer to the question put forward in the main title. After some hedging and hesitation, the author finally makes up his mind and comes out with this at the end of his piece:
„The threats to democracy in these two countries are real and persuasion alone is not going to work. The pressure has to come from all institutions, organizations, parties and individuals concerned about the future of Europe, and it has to have some teeth. Persuasion and dialogue needs to be supported by serious measures that result in economic consequences for those countries. I think that the stakes are too high to hope that the problem somehow disappears or that domestic opposition can prevail on its own.”
This is clear. This is a call for (Western) Europe to interfere in the internal affairs of Hungary and Poland, ostensibly in the name of European values.