Afraid of Hungary?


According to a report by the Vienna daily “Kurier,” a presentation at the Austrian embassy in Berlin of a new book by the well-known writer and journalist Paul Lendvai was canceled– because, Ambassador Ralph Scheide said, the book My Squandered Country – Hungary Transformed, might provoke a critical response from the Hungarian government and thus harm Hungarian-Austrian relations… 

by Karl Pfeifer

The Austrian foreign minister, who belongs to the conservative Volkspartei (ÖVP), seems very considerate when his friends from Hungary’s “völkisch”-nationalist FIDESZ (colleagues from the Association of Conservative Parties of Europe) are criticized.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Paul Lendvai and Anton Pelinka, professor at the Central European University in Budapest:

Beginning January 1st ethnic Hungarians from outside Hungary can request Hungarian passports. Are they interested?

Lendvai: Many years ago there was a Hungarian ID card that eased things somehow for them. Eight hundred thousand applied out of 2.5 to 3 million potentially entitled applicants. What matters is whether they get the vote or not. If they do FIDESZ could stay in power for 20 years.

Pelinka: The EU is not consistent. If Croatia joins the EU and the Croatian citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina will have the vote in Croatia as they do now, the Hungarian government would create a precedent for the EU by giving ethnic Hungarians outside Hungary the vote. This would create two classes of citizenship within the EU.

How would you describe Hungary’s attitude to the EU? 

Lendvai: They did not understand what membership meant. There’s an anti-Western mood in the country, which is hostile against foreign capital too. Foreign banks are discriminated against. The liberal press does not report this, being too preoccupied with the dismantling of democracy taking place, while the Right is dealing with the past, with corruption. The atmosphere is hateful. Europe is considered a side issue by the younger generation too.

Pelinka: There’s a striking right-wing anti-Americanism. And anti-Semitism. Hungary has the highest rate of Nobel-prize-winners per capita. They all came from the Jewish bourgeoisie.

Lendvai: As did the great authors. They’re all liberal, aristocratic, Jewish. The right wing has nothing to offer. I fear an imminent radical provincialization.

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