Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hungary & the Crisis of Europe by Viktor Orban

Judging from population, natural resources, and human capital, the European Union should be the leading power of the world. For the moment, however, its stagnation obstructs its potential leadership. What we call the European Project has been stopped in its tracks. We have a monetary union, and we have taken a few tentative steps towards some kind of political union, but we have no tax or fiscal union – no debt financing union – to go with it. And that is likely to remain the case.

When we did the math to forecast the financial burden of mutualising state debts, banking obligations, and pension risks, we concluded that even the German economy might not be able to sustain it in a common tax-and-welfare system. All that is bad enough. Worse, however, the EU is faced with a series of unexpected crises of the Euro, illegal migration, and geopolitics that threaten it with disintegration.

This is a gloomy diagnosis, the more so because this stagnation comes on the heels of many years of mostly steady progress. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, successive waves of enlargement and vertical enrichment meshed like the teeth of a zipper. Our most elated moments came with our revolutions in 1989-90 and German unification in 1990, and the accession of East Central Europe in 2004.

Then something snapped in 2005. In a referendum, the citizens of two founding states rejected the Treaty that would have established a Constitution for Europe.

Unlike in Denmark and Ireland, voters in France and the Netherlands did not even consider giving the proposal, slightly modified, a second chance. The dynamism of integration was brought up short.

By the time an attempt to fix the situation was made through the Lisbon Treaty – with its somewhat over-rosy vistas – we had become overwhelmed by global economic crisis. The European elite, formerly legitimized by economic success, entered a very different economic and international environment in 2008. The economic-financial meltdown dispelled the illusion of an EU capable of guaranteeing uninterrupted, even growing, prosperity for all of its citizens. It was followed by the crisis arising from the geopolitical conflict in Ukraine in 2014, and then by the migration crisis a year later. Fears and concerns continued to mount, while proposed solutions and answers grew increasingly scarce. This brought us to the British referendum. It has signalled a major juncture: the EU is losing a member for the first time – a loss that may well be the harbinger of eventual disintegration.

Instead of tackling these problems in an effort to play its proper role internationally, however, the EU seems to be content to wallow in self-tormenting recrimination, evidenced by its recent controversial attacks on Hungary and Poland. These attacks surfaced around the Constitutional Court in Poland and around the Constitution itself in Hungary. It is a fact affirmed by the Treaty of the European Union – and one that implies a duty incumbent upon the actors of public life in Hungary as well – that the Union is made up of member states, and that the European institutions are intended to advance cooperation among them. Yet the prevailing practice seems to imply the reverse. One has the impression these days that the European Union consists of institutions, and that the member states only exist to support their operations.

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