Viktor Orbán and Huxit: Hungary may be the next to leave the European Union

Hungary has already left the European Union, at least in terms of the Orbán government’s overt rejection of the ties that have bound the country to the Transatlantic community since 1990, including the system of checks and balances, judicial independence (however flawed this may have been, at times), parliamentary democracy and media freedom. But a growing number of analysts believe that Mr. Orbán is very consciously trying to loosen the emotional ties and pragmatic considerations that do still bind most Hungarians to the EU.

Last week, even the overtly pro-Orbán polling firm Nézőpont published figures showing that 64% of Hungarians want Hungary to remain a member of the EU and 60% are unhappy with Brexit. Even among Jobbik voters, 49% would oppose a potential Huxit (sometimes called “Hunexit”.) But in contrast to the United Kingdom, in Hungary it is the elderly who are more pro-EU than the youth. Younger Hungarians tend to be more eurosceptical. Perhaps the elderly have a clearer memory of how it was to live in the Eastern bloc, when borders were closed and their movement curtailed.

In Budapest, it is impossible not to bump into massive anti-EU and anti-migrant government billboards, with the following snarky and condescending phrase: “Let’s send a message to Brussels, so that even they will understand.” Hungarians will go to the polls on October 2, 2016, in order to vote on the following question: “Do you want the European Union to be entitled to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of parliament?” President János Áder announced the date of the referendum on Tuesday.

Government campaign billboard in a Budapest metro station: Let's send a message to Brussels, so that even they will undertand!" Photo: Christopher Adam.

Government campaign billboard in a Budapest metro station: Let’s send a message to Brussels, so that even they will undertand!” Photo: Christopher Adam.

Most democratic opposition parties, with the exception of Gábor Fodor’s Hungarian Liberal Party, are calling on Hungarians to boycott the vote. Anti-migrant and anti-immigration sentiment in Hungary is widespread, but if voter turn-out is below 50%, then that will be an embarrassment for Mr. Orbán and will reiterate that he is creating a siege mentality and is using xenophobia, in order to focus attention away from the most widespread, systemic corruption in Hungary in the last quarter century, as well as the country’s crumbling health care and public education.

But the October referendum is more than just a political red herring, at least according to prominent entrepreneur Gábor Bojár, who wrote about Mr. Orbán’s potential long-term strategy in HVG. According to Mr. Bojár, Huxit will follow Brexit, but added: “in Hungary, it is the prime minister who wants to leave, in contrast to the majority of Hungarians.”

According to Mr. Bojár, for the prime minister, EU funds–which form over 4% fo Hungary’s GDP–are less important than preserving his largely unchecked powers and authority. Mr. Bojár points to how Mr. Orbán’s government decided to pay back an advantageous and low-interest IMF loan before it was due, as this loan restricted Mr. Orbán’s movement and powers, with its various external checks. EU funds do still come with some checks and obligations, which Mr. Orbán and his wildly corrupt oligarchs and comrades in Fidesz resent. If Hungary were to leave the EU, could the 4% hole in the GDP be plugged with money from Russia, especially if a Eurasian union or cooperation ever materializes?

For Mr. Orbán, EU membership is not about shared values or ideals. It boils down only to money. “The main difference between Fidesz and Jobbik is that the latter would leave the EU, but Fidesz would not, because EU membership is in Hungary’s economic interest,” declared Mr. Orbán earlier.

But Britain, a country which covered close to 8% of the EU’s budget, is now leaving and the EU budget is set to cut spending and transfers to “have not” to member states, like Hungary. Once Hungary does not reap as many financial rewards from the EU, there will be nothing else–no emotional attachment–to keep Hungary in.

Mr. Bojár writes: “Vikor Orbán is an outstanding politician. He knows that, in contrast to the English, most Hungarians would not support leaving the EU. As such, he is systematically building a mass base for the camp that would eventually vote to leave the EU.”

Although this is not mentioned in Mr. Bojár’s article,  the most powerful Fidesz government minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, János Lázár, said that in a hypothetical  in/out referendum, he would vote to leave the EU. This is probably a political trial balloon. Would Hungarians react in horror at this suggestion, from a very senior minister, or would they be largely indifferent, or perhaps willing to quietly consider the option?

The concept of a Huxit has been planted–the government is now watering the seeds and cultivating the idea.

But the risks of Huxit to Hungary would be massive, as Katalin Lévai, a Member of the European Parliament for the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), points out. Ms. Lévai emphasizes that fully 85% of all infrastructure development and investment (the construction of new highways, bridges, hospitals, schools and stadiums) hinges on EU funding. If there are real concerns that Brexit will lead to capital flight from Britain, Huxit would have a far more dramatic and immediate impact on Hungary, as foreign investors and companies pack up and perhaps relocate their Central European operations to nearby Bratislava, Vienna or maybe Prague. Unemployment in Hungary would sky-rocket.

Ms. Lévai aptly writes: “Perhaps we have forgotten how it felt to live behind the Iron Curtain. Perhaps we have also forgotten about the reality of war, and that ever since the time of St. Stephen (the first king of Hungary), we have wanted to belong to the West…Huxit would be tantamount to suicide.”

Huxit may, indeed, be suicide for Hungary, even if Vladimir Putin’s Russia is able and willing to transfer the equivalent of 25 billion euros per year in subsidies to Hungary and even if more Russian companies set up shop in Budapest and elsewhere in the country. But if we’re talking about St. Stephen, then we must also recall that much of Hungarian history and public discourse has been characterized by a struggle between where Hungary should belong–to the East or to the West? And this debate often came hand-in-hand with bloodshed and tragedy.

19 Comments

  1. HUNXIT STINKS but if the Hungarians are not bothered by the stench, there is no reason for the rest of the world to be. The only interesting thing about it all is that the transformation, unopposed, of a newly free country into one evil man’s ugly, corrupt dictatorship has occurred openly, before the eyes of its citizenry and the entire world, under the aegis and subsidy of the EU. Something is clearly wrong, terribly wrong, with this picture. But it looks like it won’t be the citizenry that figures it out. The few who have done so should emigrate while they still have a chance. That chillingly Orwellian subway placard says it all.

  2. (I hope Brussels’s reply will be Takarodjatok — so even the Hungarians will understand…)

    • Stevan Harnard

      I am a son of a Hungarian woman, I was told to say Hi to everyone
      because my momma does not know who is my father, so I am a bastard. hungary don’t want me because I am gay and not so smart according my adopted family. they call me buzzy! I like that
      name, it is funy!

  3. Everybody is asking what would happen to Hungary if she exits the EU. What I ask is what would happen to Hungary if she stays in the EU.
    Can we see the future of the EU beyond an attempt to become a political, economic and military superstate. What role are they planning for Hungary in that?

    The BREXIT was not really good for the EU and the for power elite but was good for them to go ahead changing and reforming the EU into that superstate where everything from criminal law to taxation would belong Brussels and the whole superstate and all its countries would be controlled by appointed leaders instead of democratically elected governments.

  4. Avatar Steve Gersli says:

    Christopher are you Hungarian? Who pay you to write so much garbage .
    I think uncle Soros help you to pay your paper to spread this hatred articles.

    • Avatar Liz Aucoin says:

      Hatred? Please show me what is hateful about this article? The truth hurts, but this is not HFP’s problem now is it? What I find hateful is how so many Hungarians are trying to dupe other Hungarians. Some think they are above others and feel they deserve a bigger piece of the pie and therefor want the decent people in Hungary to stay in the dark for as long as possible to be sure they have successfully stolen the last forint. Such keyboard patriot you are!

  5. Avatar Robert Szucs says:

    Yes him, and this degenerate S. Harnad who hopes “Brussels’s reply will be Takarodjatok.”

    Why this anti-hungarian people stink up the air on this website daily?

  6. Avatar Miklos Banfi says:

    Steve and Robert, chances are about 100% greater that you guys are Orban’s brainless trolls, than Chris is paid by Soros or anybody else.
    His (and we on his opinion) are fighting for Hungary’s interest desperately, we love Hungary! However worrying for its future in the new Soviet Empire after Huxit. If you think, that Hungary is capable of living independently, like Albania, than you lost your sense of reality. As Hungary’s OWN economic output: industry, agriculture etc by itself is just pitiful.
    I am sure I managed to convince you and your soulmates – idiots!

    • Your words about Hungary’s incapability of living independently are sadly true. Very much. Although, I wouldn’t mind Hungary’s leaving he EU, I certainly aware of the fact, as I wrote earlier, that Hungary would instantly need new allies. And I am sure they could find. The problem that I see in addition to what you said is, that Hungary is also incapable of fairly and smoothly handling any allied relations.
      As soon as the agreement is sealed they start the boat rocking.

  7. Avatar Miklos Banfi says:

    Getting new allies for an untrustworthy, nationalist, selfish government would work only if you give a lot away for return. They can work only on mutual benefit and trust. I can’t see that happening at all with the Orban regime.
    I am not saying the EU is working very well, but it is certainly not a super power, actually they don’t have enough power to make the whole union work. BUT, their main and only working principle and function has been working very well, namely kept peace and managed to temper nationalistic outbursts. As soon as EU disintegrates, the wounds will flare up and wars can break up very easily as we know these lunatics mostly in Eastern Europe..

    • @miklos
      These haven’t lost their sences, they never had any – they are trolls.
      Three kinds of people support Fidesz:
      the robbers and freeloaders (understandable),
      the dumb ignoramuses (regrettable) and
      the damaged souls vying for attention and glories at any price (quite incredible).

    • Fair enough. 🙂 Just one remark, I don’t say the EU is a superpower now, but it could become after BREXIT and that is what the power elite is working on hard.

      Wars seem to inevitable, yet I think if the situation is handled properly, a bigger, greater, freer EU can be created.

  8. Avatar Dr. Habil. András Fodor says:

    Dear Christopher and Others, anti-Orban / anti-Hungarian Ciceros:
    .
    My point is quite the same as that of Miklós Bánfy.
    .
    Unike you, boys, Miklós and I LOVE HUNGARY, because in our mind Hungary is a country of Gábor Bethlen, Ilona Zrinyi, Ferenc Rákóczy, Ferenc Kölcsey, István Széchenyi, Lajos Kossuth, Sándor Petőfi, János Arany, Mihály Vörösmarty, senior and younger Eötvös, Ferenc Deák, senior Ferenc Koszorús, Albert Szent-Györgyi, the Senior József Antall, László Ravasz, József Mindszenthy, Imre Nagy, The Pesti Srácok, István Angyal, Imre Nagy, the Junior József Antall, János Horváth, and not that of Szálasi, Horthy, Rákosi, Kádár, Apró, Horn or Gyurcsány.
    .
    Consequenly, we are NOT INTRESTED IN HUNEXIT – neither Mr Orbán is, but also NOT INTERESTED in the present Luxemburg- German Wirchaft what the the six-ox – Schultz and the irresponsible bohem gigerli Junckers made the EU under the coordination of the failed quantum-chemist- scientist, the wonderful-angelic soul Angela Merkel. The BREXIT is not good for Hungary at all, but if England were stepping back, it would have been even worse, because nothing would have been change in Brussels’s 2×2=5 structure and policy. Overpaid second-class burocrats dealing with pitianer regulations and the really serious questons remain ununswered.
    .
    Hungary – unlike our highly respected Fantomas-like co-patriot György Soros – is NOT INTETERSTED IN AN ISLAMIC EUROPE.
    .
    Hungary has 150 year long Historic Experience what does the “Open Society” means if the Muslim Fascists-For-Ever rule our homeland. This why the majority of the Hungarian people will vote against the “QUOTA”.

    Christopher, let me add a personal remark: you and your colleges in Hungarian Free Press have expressed several times you visceral hate toward Hungary. Evereythubg, which is Hungarian. Correct?
    .
    But frankly speaking I think your feelings are rather ambivalent.
    You hate Hungary like a horned husband who hates his wife whom he actually love. Am I right, Christopher?
    .
    You believe that Hungary, your homeland has cheated you.
    .
    Are you sure that you are not mistaken?
    .
    Beste regadrs, your co-patriot, András Fodor

  9. Dr. Habil (failed chemist or whatever)

    Your “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. I guess Samuel Johnson meant exactly your ilk, since Széchenyi, Eotvös, Deák, Arany had pretty different ideas about Hungary, quite different from Tisza, Horthy, Gömbos, Imrédy .. Orban.

    Today the Orban mafia state is sucking the blood of the economy and rotting the society. The cheap and phony “patriotism” of the regime can’t hide the fact that Hungary has been sliding down lower and lower in poverty, corruption and isolation.
    BTW Orban has in many respects already taken Hungary out of the EU, or Europe for that matter and is dragging it towards Azerbaijan, Kazahstan or Russia. Hence those who support this scum are actually Hungarian people’s enemy, realize it or not.

    We, on the other hand, are fighting to remain free, civilized and Europeans. And I hate Orban and his regime.

  10. Avatar Miklos Banfi says:

    Mr Fodor, I am offended.
    I don’t know what doctor you are, but let’s not kid ourselves, it does not make your opinion and crooked, malicious judgements superior. You managed to find similarities in our thoughts? I don’t have the faintest, how?
    I pretty much disagree with all of your quite inconsistent thoughts.
    They are full of factual mistakes, also.
    On the other hand my thoughts are very much the same with Chris and Observer, and feeling this mental harmony is even emotionally elevating:)

  11. For what it’s worth, I do not “love” Hungary, nor Canada, nor any country, creed, clan or football club. I don’t even “love” lencse főzelék (my favorite dish); I would say I am very fond of it. And of the verse of Ady Endre, and the prose and wit of Karinthy Frigyes.

    What I love is decent, humane, individuals. (And all animals.)

    I am very wary of country-lovers. Usually means trouble (because of their complementary hates)…

  12. Avatar Miklos Banfi says:

    Stevan, knowing you through your past writings I understand your point. I hope you are not attacking us, who have healthy patriotic feelings, not nationalistic, chauvinistic views. I know you don’t:)

  13. Miklos, of course it’s Messrs Gersli, Szucs & Fodor that I had in mind. Although I doubt that there’s a real distinction to be made between “patriotism” and “nationalism,” I suspect that your sentiment for Hungary is more like mine for lencse, Ady & Karinthy than the defensive/offensive fetishes of Gersli & Co. (There are similar pseudo-distinctions in my field, such as the one between “consciousness” and “awareness”…)

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