Der Spiegel: The Goulash Archipelago – EU Remains Silent as Hungary Veers Off Course

On Monday, the German-language weekly Der Spiegel published an exceptionally comprehensive piece on the most disconcerting political developments in Hungary that took place during this summer and on the reasons why this must worry the international community, and the European Union in particular.

Der Spiegel’s international website features the article in English, which makes it a must read for anyone in need of a “crash course” on Hungarian politics beyond 2010. Practically every one of the most outstanding policies and legislative steps taken by Hungary’s government to dismantle Hungary’s democratic institutions in the last few months are covered (with one important omission, the changed constitution of the country, which was covered separately by the magazine in an April article).

Mention is made of a wide array of perturbing issues, including:

  • Hungary’s new “public labour law,” which is going to force at least 300,000 unemployed to work for less than minimum wages (for 290EU/415USD a month, to be precise) or else lose eligibility for social benefits altogether.
  • the haste with which Hungary’s current government pushes through its own legislative will through the Parliamen – a “top-down coup d’etat,” as the magazine refers to it.
  • the untiring efforts of the Orbán government to put on trial three former prime ministers from the rival socialist party “for incurring government debts” – by retroactively instituting laws for their criminal proceedings
  • the so-called “revolution in the voting booth” that is supposed to justify the radical changes being made to the country’s laws
  • the perpetuation of this “revolution” by placing loyalists of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán into positions of power, with appointments lasting long beyond the government’s four-year term – including the presidency and the office of the chief prosecutor
  • curtailing the powers of the constitutional court
  • the consolidation of the state media, the firing of journalists critical of the government and the creation of a media law that “offers various ways to muzzle journalists with unwelcome views”
  • the EU’s silence even while Mr. Orbán engages in populist demagoguery such as his statement “that he would ensure that Hungary, which had not allowed itself to be dictated to by Vienna in 1848 and Moscow in 1956, would not accept orders ‘from Brussels’ now either”
  • concerns voiced by the US Department of State about Hungary’s human rights record
  • Hungary’s new religious law, which refuses official recognition – and therefore their most important source of funding – to all but 14 religious organizations out of 400 registered denominations previously registered
  • Hungarian political science professor László Kéri’s assessment that “the party and the state are merging here in Hungary” and that Orbán’s ” ‘workfare’ model of social benefits in return for labor” is a verbatim resurrection of state fascism from the 1930s
  • the investigation of a group of philosophers, among them Ágnes Heller, for their alleged “embezzlement” of research funds. As Ms. Heller herself notes, dissidents are being treated as criminals in her country. “Under Kádár, we had communism without communists, starting in 1989 we had democracy without democrats, and for the last year we have had conservatism without conservatives. It’s a reflection of the nature of the Hungarian, eternally chosen and misunderstood, sitting in his corral and unable to make up his mind, because his biggest concern is to survive in the midst of the enemies surrounding him,” she said to the Spiegel’s reporter.

Read the full article here:,1518,780794-3,00.html

This entry was posted in European Union, Fidesz, former prime ministers, Hungarian government, Hungary, közfoglalkoztatási törvény, közmunka, media law, parliament, public media firings, unemployment, US-Hungarian diplomatic relationships, Viktor Orbán, Western criticism of Hungary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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