The Future of the Union: Austerity or Prosperity?
The application of double-standards, pompousness, and autocracy has become daily routine in Brussels and other traditional power centers in the western world, while tending to their daily task of achieving their ambigous globalistic goals. Hungary’s persecution may be a case in point. Brussels has singled out to discipline and punish this small east-european country recently, which was an ignominious (i.e. shameful) moment in EU history.
Eastern Europe and newly liberated countries of the region in general are particularly sensitive to accepting unwanted orders from central command posts similar to soviet times, when Moscow decided essentially everything for them. So, Brussels should watch out as this newly applied upper handed approach could backfire and result in a backlash, as member state mutiny has been spreading throughout the eastern part of Europe like wildfire to the point that they now actually talk of submitting their letters of resignation leading to a total collapse of the entire Union.
Brussels and other large western power brokers should therefore stick to their original mission as catalysts of democracy and not as watchdogs dictating and preaching to the less fortunate and impoverished nations on how to run their economies, how to behave and how to define their own political destiny.
Europe’s current economic and monetary crisis, for example, can be partly attributed to the unwillingness of wealthier EU founding states to reach deeper into their pockets and directly aid the economically challenged southern and eastern european members of the community. The top 3 European economies (Germany, Britain and France) should have extended a hand a long time ago to the less developed European countries in order to help them close the prosperity gap, just like the Americans offered the West Europeans prosperity under the Marshall Plan after the second world war, yet Brussels chose to follow a different path. The EU leadership stopped short of providing meaningful economic assistance to the east-european region and created less costly non-functional patronizing schemes, such as cohesion funds instead that are dispersed under strict political conditions (based on an IMF model). This surreptitious „generousity” is simply not working. Even worse, EU capital brokers opted to conquer east-european markets and harvest cheap labor there, amounting to neo-colonization policies that are not sustainable in the long run. Moreover, they now began to aggressively intervene and dictate domestic policies to sovereign member states such as they have done in the case of Hungary. Brussels arrogantly requires GDP proportioned budget deficits to be reduced to unreasonably low levels, orders austerity programs to squeeze citizens to a maximum in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Hungary, just to name a few victims of their pompousness. This inward-looking and self-serving attitude might indeed contribute to a downward spiral that will undermine the entire community from within.
As a result, protests and independence movements spread, particularly in eastern and southeastern Europe. For example, in Hungary, where a 2/3 majority government was catapulted to lead the country 2 years ago, an all-out attack was launched against the new center-right government, which was exported to Brussels and Washington by ex-socialists who were revengeful for being displaced at the helm of the government. For the record, Hungary’s situation is still under review by historians as this country was unreasonably punished in excess of what it deserved after World War I. The „Trianon dictates”, as history knows it, was one of the most unjust wartime settlement accords in modern history and will haunt the French, British, American and Russian alliance to the grave. The western alliance at the time confiscated (practically stole) 2/3 of Hungary’s territory in 1920, displacing 5 million of its native citizens and never compensated Hungarians for this terrible loss. Hungary and the Hungarians have a legitimate claim to some form of compensation, if not territorial than at least financial, to settle the score.
Yet, not surprisingly, instead of unifying the country in its vision of rebuilding its old glory, Hungary’s old socialists and their cronies went on a rampage all the way to Washington and Brussels to brainwash, confuse and instigate western journalists and politicians to mobilize against the new Orban administration. Ironically, Orban and his FIDESZ party have likely been the most democratic platform in Hungary since regime change took place in 1990. To cite the most important example, citizens and protesters are at least not being imprisoned and are not being beaten on the streets of Budapest as it was the case under the Gyurcsany-Bajnai governments. The Orban regime may be running a U.S.-republican style economy that is socially insensitive with its flat tax that rewards the top 10 percent of society, while disenfranchising the majority of the people, but, at the same time, the government has been acting in a prudent manner to address economic injustices such as the rampant mortgage crisis and swiss-franc based loan schemes that banks dumped on residents 10 years ago. Orban’s new policies now help out those who defaulted on mortgage loans, the government imposes tighter controls over banks and multinationals who received tax breaks and made excessive profits up to now (while the rest of the country paid enourmously high taxes), and Orban’s regime may now finally settle old scores in a civilized manner with ex-socialists as well, reprimanding them for brutalizing Hungarians for over 35 years under János Kádár’s dictatorship. All this ironically rattled western leaders and amounted to a backlash that culminated in the dictates that Washington and Brussels have recently imposed upon this small east-central European country.
Oddly, the Orbán government has done nothing more than what the West has been trying to do for 40 years: contain ex-communists who tried to crawl back to power after the transition to democracy, introduce tighter controls over the banking system, create media balance (which was previously overwhelmingly under the control of left-wing socialists), and bring together Hungarians in harmony living in and outside of Hungary under a new policy of measured nationalism. Hungarians outside of Hungary can now receive citizenship and voting rights, which was an important step in regaining self-respect for this chunkated nation. Yet, somehow this independence movement, which is conservative, innovative and nationalistic at the same time, irritated certain western leadership circles that have been largely accustomed to faithful obedience. Hence the vengeful attacks on Hungary recently by EU officials Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Olli Rehn, Neelie Kroes and Guy Verhofstadt, fueled in the background by Commissioner Laszlo Andor and certain „left-wing intellectuals” such as Agnes Heller, Miklos Haraszti, György Konrad and Vienna-based ex-communist agent Paul Lendvai, none of them particularly famous for their Hungarian patriotism. This was one of the most shameful periods in the brief history of the European Union as it directly confronted the spirit and ideals of western democracy and tolerance.
Hungary, similar to the PIGS states (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain), suffers from an already super-heavy debt service that former socialist politicians forced upon it. The eurozone crisis and Hungary’s future along with the future of other east-european member states, is contingent upon a new „European Marshall Plan” to boost the region’s economies and close the gap between the more affluent western states and the newly independent democratic regimes. So, instead of applying arrogance and trying to dictate to Greece, Hungary, Poland and other east-european countries on how to „behave”, Brussels should do the opposite: give them more slack and offer a new aid package and possibly forgive their debts, which is long overdue as these countries have already suffered enough under nazi and soviet occupation.
The solution therefore may be more aid and less austerity requisites! It is high time for Europe to show the world that generousity is not exclusively an American virtue. Brussels and the top three economies (Germany, France, and Great Britain) will either comprehend their duty to step up to the plate and go the extra mile, or continue their inward-looking policies, which will likely fail causing a possible domino effect leading to the collapse of the entire Union, a hideous resemblance to another failed upper-handed regional integration attempt under the Soviet Union not so long ago.
Adam Topolansky – an ex-U.S. government official, consultant and author on regional integration