The Goulash Archipelago
August 20, 2011 8:33 PM   Subscribe

Orbán's concept of moral renewal and economic rehabilitation for Hungary has several tenets: Those without work are to be given work; those who are already working should work more in the future, but without being paid more; in the interest of the country's "stability," those who hold political power today should be allowed to remain in office for as long as possible; and those who once had power and did not use it for the benefit of the people should now be punished.
"Supporters of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán say he has a strict leadership style, while critics warn of the threat of forced political conformity, Jew-baiting and labor camps. Meanwhile, the European Union is saying nothing, apparently accepting the fact that a member state is getting out of control." [previously]
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
... those who hold political power today should be allowed to remain in office for as long as possible;...

ORLY? And never mind that "election" thing, where those in power must periodically submit themselves to the voters for a renewal of their mandate.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:56 PM on August 20, 2011

for the benefit of Jasper the poster, the cringingly pun-ful "The Goulash Archipelago" is part of the title of the linked article. Still....

And from page 3: "Operetta Dictatorship"? Hard to have a serious situation taken seriously with that kind of wordplay.

And you have to suspect parts of the EU are not silent, but rather cheering under their breath. Off course? By whose course?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:06 PM on August 20, 2011

I don't feel like joking. A lot of the smaller central European countries are pretty immature politically, having emerged from Communism quite recently. Repressive Communism frequently kept a lid on ethnic conflicts, but it also meant the societies in question did not deal with the issues. Now, once the repressive control is lifted, the problems which were bottled up, are liable to erupt into incredibly sudden and ugly violence.

This is what happened in the former Yugoslavia. It's important to remember that Yugoslavia was considered quite socially advanced compared to other Communist regimes - Communism with a human face, if you will. And look what happened with the Balkan wars.

There are many such ethnic tensions, which unscrupulous politicians, demagogues, exploit in order to gain or retain power. The populace is frequently under economic pressure - and we all know what that can lead to. Let us not forget that Hungary had a very nasty history during WWII - as eager allies of Hitler. Some of the worst anti-Semititc atrocities happened in Hungary.

And now again the population is under economic pressure, there's a deeply anti-democratic demagogue in charge and ethnic scapegoating is rearing its ugly head. This is worrisome to say the least. It is my personal belief that the EU should take an extremely tough stand here - either Hungary pulls back from that precipice, or there will be the most dire of consequences, starting with immediate expulsion from the union. This shit is not something to play around with.

The Roma question is a disturbing point of conflict in many of these countries (Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic etc.). There are also uncomfortable parallels with the Sudeten Germans in a lot of Hungarian minority cross-border and cultural claims for Hungary and the Slovak Republic as well as Romania.

These are all flash points. This should not be ignored.
posted by VikingSword at 9:42 PM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

Out of control? This is exactly what the ECB wants. If they were trying to implement Keynesian stimulus -- or just doing nothing -- I'm sure the the rest of Europe would crack down. Just look at the way they cracked down on Greece and other countries in order to ensure that German bankers would get paid back.
posted by delmoi at 10:01 PM on August 20, 2011

So when I hear teabaggers bitch about shit, I should tell them "Love it or go to Hungary"?
posted by symbioid at 10:19 PM on August 20, 2011

expulsion from the union

One word: contagion

More words: Once the EU began to contract the enemies of the EU (there are many) gain in power and credibility, it would not be in the EU's best interest to kick member states out at the point in time, indeed much better to deal with malfeasance within the EU system than through the UN or whatever. Of course the threat of removal could be used, but not actually doing it.
posted by stbalbach at 11:19 PM on August 20, 2011

If they were going to kick anybody out of the EU, it would be Greece. Hungary's increasing authoritarianism isn't a drain on other European nations (yet), so they'll almost certainly leave it alone.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:49 PM on August 20, 2011

I'm impressed by the knowledge US mefites have of what EU member states are 'really' thinking.
As a Dutch EU citizen I'm not convinced that large numbers of EU citizens are 'cheering under their breath' about this.

I consulted my Dutch newspaper; how did they report on this? On the 12th of august the way they presented this is that Hungarian citizens tend to wrap up their opinion with the ominous phrase "we're not a dictatorship yet". (!) That was the pull quote of the article.
Also the article pointed out that Hungary has huge financial problems and that Orbán is trying fix everything at once with blunt force.

Personally I think that EU law should be the threshold for when other EU states should occupy themselves with Hungarian internal politics. And use this to force Hungary to remain democratic. These laws are in place. So I don't see how Hungary could become a dictatorship and remain within the EU. I'm hoping this is part of Hungary collectively learning what being a democracy, instead of a communist state, entails. That kind of collective learning is measured in decades, not days.

When I was in Austria I spoke to a Hungarian who was working there in a ski village. I asked him what he thought of the restrictive media law. He said he cared much more about the economy and work opportunities. Apparently a whole generation of young people is not able to get any work, while older people hold on to their jobs, and are forced to emigrate and do unskilled work in other EU countries. His resentment was palpable.

I hope that the lack of official response is on account of the fact that the EU has a lot on its plate at the moment.
Hopefully this article in Der Spiegel raises the priority of this issue in our collective agenda.

Thanks for the link. Very interesting.
posted by joost de vries at 12:35 AM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is exactly what the ECB wants. If they were trying to implement Keynesian stimulus -- or just doing nothing -- I'm sure the the rest of Europe would crack down.

Hungary is not a member of the Eurozone. The Hungarians actually have the option of doing what ECB membership denies Greece and Ireland: printing more money and devaluing the forint. This could provide the sort of internal stimulus needed without additional borrowing. Even right wing economic think tanks have had to admit that this sometimes works: "…recent major devaluations in Finland, Sweden, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom did not lead to inflation—in fact, it has come down, as have interest rates. Devaluation was a boon to these countries."

A successful devaluation of the forint would pave the way for throwing Greece out of the Eurozone and bring back beer at 3000 drachma per pint.
posted by three blind mice at 1:13 AM on August 21, 2011

"Under the law, only 14 of 358 registered churches and religious associations will be granted legal recognition, while others will have to reapply for legal registration after two-thirds approval in parliament."

Those with the time and the inclination can read through the above-mentioned "Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities" in its entirety here. (Links to a PDF file.)
posted by eric1halfb at 1:37 AM on August 21, 2011

As a Dutch EU citizen I'm not convinced that large numbers of EU citizens are 'cheering under their breath' about this.

The comment doesn't mention large numbers of EU citizens. It strikes me as a glance in the direction of leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and especially Silvio Berlusconi.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:32 AM on August 21, 2011

In addition to the excellent Hungarian Spectrum, another good English-language blog is the Contrarian Hungarian (no link; I'm on my Blackberry). Thanks for this post--I find Hungary fascinating despite the incomprehensible language.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:57 AM on August 21, 2011

This recent Boston Review article about the rise of Fidesz is also good.
posted by briank at 8:36 AM on August 21

It is indeed, thanks.
posted by gimonca at 8:56 AM on August 21, 2011

Paging Frank Fukuyama: Please report to the Hungary desk. There is a question about ends and means.

There's been a lot of nattering in polisci circles about how democracies are almost always capitalist. The implication that is being reached for is capitalism creates democracies. An economic philosophy is not a social program.

Thriving capitalist democracies are dependent not just on capitalism, but on a legal system that enforces contracts fairly and defends human rights. Avoiding militarist command economies helps a lot, too.

Remove the legal support, add a little militarism and - ta da - capitalist dictatorships, totalitarian states, and kleptocracies become not only possible, but inevitable.
posted by warbaby at 10:11 AM on August 21, 2011

If the EU doesn't stand against fascism, athoritarianism and nationalism, it has betrayed its earliest and most important purpose. What are we left with? A neoliberal economic club - open markets, closed everything else. Which, as another poster said, I'm sure Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Orban and Cameron would like just fine.
posted by WPW at 12:50 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

A successful devaluation of the forint would pave the way for throwing Greece out of the Eurozone and bring back beer at 3000 drachma per pint.

Which means the drachma would be devalued 2-3 times (depends on where you're buying your beer) and the country would default under the burden of its euro-denominated debt. Pretty unlikely considering not only last month's recent agreement, but also that if the Eurozone wanted Greece to default, that would have already been the case.
posted by ersatz at 4:04 AM on August 22, 2011

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