In Poland, the possibility of political change floats more strongly in the air than in Hungary, which suffers from apathy.
Poland and Hungary have recently gained a reputation as two rearranged students in the back row, bombarding the teacher in the back with rubbers and crawling so that others begin to get in pain. “Poland and Hungary, if you do not do what has been agreed together now, then, yes. . .but you don’t fly out. ” In this sense, comparing the EU to the school class is badly limping.
Disruptive students can be removed from the class, and often they would usually like to hang out with a shopper, for example, but Poland and Hungary are hardly out of the way.
Hungary and Poland oppose the rule of law mechanism for the use of EU budget funding, which could address breaches of the rule of law in the distribution and use of EU funding. The rule of law means that the state acts on the basis of the law and the fundamental rights that protect the status of the individual.
The EU is currently led by Germany, and by the Chancellor Angela Merkelin the difficult task is to find a solution to the dispute. It would be a real surprise if there was no way out of the situation in the end. Merkel hardly wants to stay in history as a disintegrator of the Union. Poland and Hungary also have a lot to lose if they are left without EU money. Both sides have great principles at play, so the controversy is deep.
I went in August in Hungary and in September in Poland. Problems of the rule of law surfaced as early as the summer. Both countries have a right-wing conservative populist government, but the countries are in a very different situation from each other.
Poland has a strong civil society that strongly challenges the right-wing populist government. Extensive demonstrations against the government have been seen in Warsaw during the summer and autumn. The government’s hate rhetoric against sexual and gender minorities has sparked major protests. Now, for several weeks now, large sections of the public have been protesting the government’s intention to blackmail the right to abortion. Faith in change floats in the air.
In Poland, the government has curtailed the independence of the judiciary and politicized the selection of judges. Some of the media are pro-government, but some report independently.
In Hungary, the government power of right-wing populists seems much deeper anchored than in Poland. Many anti-government opposition figures and civil society activists have suffered Burn Out, the researcher I met said in Budapest. There is political apathy in the country and migration out of Hungary is strong.
There are no ongoing anti-government demonstrations like Poland. The filmmaker I met said that few could stand up to the government’s restrictive art policy. The freedom of the media has been reduced.
The Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbánin the message to its people is that the EU is trying to deprive Hungary of its own Christian culture and force it to take in more immigrants. The message of the Polish Government to its people is consistent.
Although the EU is malevolent in Orbán’s rhetoric, he does not want Hungary to leave the EU, nor does the majority of the people. Orbán needs EU money, and the flow of support will probably also depend on the support of the Orbán-led Fidesz party. Fidesz has anchored itself deeply in Hungarian society and economy. A change in the relationship between Hungary and the EU would shake this line.
Orbán is likely to continue to want to remain in a position where he can stutter in Brussels and then present himself as a winner to his own citizens, rejecting EU demands such as the reception of immigrants.
Poland also needs EU money. It is the largest net beneficiary in the EU. In both countries, a large proportion of the population lives in poverty with no prospect of improvement. The coronavirus crisis is exacerbating the misery of the poor. Despite the similarities, Poland and Hungary should not be bundled into the same package. Nor is it worth thinking that the whole nation would look like its current leader.
Polish and Hungary’s development in the coming years may be very different. Their governments may have been strengthened in the common struggle against the policies of the EU majority.
If it irritates EU member states, it is worth sympathizing with directing anti-authoritarian forces in both countries, rather than branding entire nations as their current leaders.
The author is HS’s Berlin correspondent