Hungary snubbed on fifteenth anniversary of EU membership

It’s May Day in Hungary — a national holiday where major political parties hold picnics and rallies, Budapest’s Városliget (City Park) fills with families, games for children, barbecues and vendors, and the almost moribund Munkáspárt, the hard-line successor of the country’s pre-1989 Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, shows signs of life by marching on Andrássy út and serving zsíróskenyér (bread with lard) in the park.

This May Day, however, was also the fifteenth anniversary of Hungary’s membership in the European Union. The EU’s 2004 enlargement brought in seven former Eastern bloc countries once aligned with the Soviet Union, as well as Malta, Cyprus and Slovenia. The ten countries together were the recipients of more than 365 billion euros in funding from EU structural and cohesion funds. In Hungary alone, EU funding created 115,000 jobs, 3,724 kilometres of new roads and 415 kilometres of railway tracks.

Europe is here. Poster from 1 May 2004.

The anniversary was, at best, a muted celebration in Hungary. More significant and telling, however, was the way in which Hungary was snubbed on this day during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. In a headline article appearing in The EUObserver, we read that the Finnish ambassador to the UN ignored the fact that Hungary vetoed a joint statement drafted by the EU on how Europe was “alarmed” and concerned about the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian deaths and the lack of progress on finding a two state solution to the long-standing conflict. Finland is about to assume the rotating EU presidency in July, hence why it presented this statement.

The Finnish ambassador made it clear that he was speaking on behalf of 27 EU member states, which of course did not include Hungary–due to the Orbán regime’s opposition to criticism of Israel and, more specifically, his close ally–Benjamin Netanyahu. No mention was made of Hungary’s opposition to the statement.

The snub was deliberate–diplomats within the EU are reportedly “irritated” with the Hungarian government, particularly because the Orbán government waited until the last minute to object to the joint statement and also failed to explain its objections. Even after the snub, Hungary’s EU mission refused to clarify to EUObserver journalists what precisely they had found so objectionable in the EU statement. This marks the fifth time that the Orbán government vetoes an EU statement that is critical of Israel and which otherwise had widespread support among EU member states.

With Hungary throwing a wrench in the EU’s desire to speak with a united voice on the world stage, the European Commission is now seriously exploring the possibility of deciding joint foreign policy matters through a qualified majority.

Hungarian publications took the situation today in the UN for what it was: an embarrassment for Hungary. “It appears as though we are not being taken seriously at all anymore” — wrote Népszava. The website went further, remarking that Hungarian diplomats in the EU are nothing more than trolls: “Never has the trolling Hungarian diplomatic corps been so humiliated.”

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