In the following, László Csizmadia, chairman of Hungary’s pro-government Civil Cooperation Forum (CÖF), shares his thoughts on Hungary and Europe a fortnight after Hungary’s referendum against the EU’s proposed compulsory refugee resettlement quota scheme.
– Can you tell us about your organisation’s mission and chief areas of activity in brief?
– Prior to the 2 October referendum, we thought it crucial to convey the opinion of the over 2000 associations and foundations, along with 1500 private individuals on the quota scheme. Our organisation’s membership extends to beyond-border ethnic Hungarians from all seven regions of Greater Hungary now belonging to neighbouring countries and covers some of their largest umbrella organisations, such as Csemadok in Slovakia. Our activity includes dealing with problems concerning the EU in general; for example, we have recently submitted two petitions to the EU’s petitions committee on problems brought on by the migrants’ unregulated movement within the EU and the question of responsibility in the aftermath of Brexit.
Previously, we have organised four so-called “Peace Marches” so far, which saw hundreds of thousands of citizens demostrate their commitment to the government’s policies on the streets of Budapest and held 96 lectures across the country ahead of the referendum.
The quota referendum was an issue of national and European significance. Left-wing parties that for the boycott of the referendum, such as DK and MSZP, are enemies of democracy because the institution of referenda is the essence of the principle of popular sovereignty. I find Jobbik’s position, which would have settled the question with a two-thirds vote in Parliament instead of holding a referendum, hard to comprehend for a similar reason; likewise, we could not except the Hungarian Liberal Party’s call for a “Yes” vote either.
The so-called “Peace Marches” drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of the capital in 2012-2014 (photo: János Bődey/index.hu)
– How do you see the international context of the migrant crisis?
– Firstly, I believe that NATO is failing to meet its obligations as an alliance of collective defence. The wave of immigration, spun by people smugglers, amounts to a war against Europe. Turkey, a major military power, is blackmailing the continent in demand of visa-free travel to the European Union. We mustn’t transform Europe into a bazaar by bargaining on this.
In contrast, Visegrád Group countries are calling for strengthening national armies; this would serve to protect national borders but also could be the basis of international cooperation if necessary. Halting the migratory wave should not have been the sole task of Hungary; the Schengen agreement and Dublin regulations both point to the responsibility of Greece and Italy in this question. However, because of their dire economic situation, these countries have become vulnerable to the Brussels elite, led by Angela Merkel, and are hoping for chunks of their debt to be let off. Again, we are seeing double standards: Hungary, for example, had to work hard before the Excessive Deficit Procedure against the country was lifted.
While Mrs. Merkel had been a brilliant Chancellor prior to the migrant crisis, she has, by now, lost her credibility and overstretched her official competences by failing to listen to European citizens’ concerns. For her, the issue of immigration has become a vanity project. Similarly, Brussels also fails to understand European citizens’ demands suggesting that institutional changes are necessary.
– Could you line these out in more concrete terms?
– Despite not being elected by citizens, the European Commission practically functions as the government of the continent. The Commission is now trying to forward the question of compulsory migrant resettlement quotas to the European Parliament in defiance of prime ministers’ and national parliaments’ decisions to the contrary. The Hungarian government was the first to ask for the opinion of the people on this important issue.
Civil society organisations’ initiatives should also be afforded greater say in the decision-making process. At present, with the requirement of collecting at least two million signatures from seven member states, it’s all but impossible for these to reach the Parliament. In the case of abortion laws, this was met, but the Commission nevertheless blocked progress in the case.
In our view, there’s no such thing as a “neutral” person, everyone has an opinion. Our’s is a step-to-step, conservative approach that emphasises the importance of Christian roots. We must recognise that what we are seeing today is a war of religions with the aim of changing the face of Christianity. The effects of this are already clear, with 2000 mosques standing across Germany and no-go zones springing up in Brussels and Paris.
– Some have accused the government of paving the way for early elections. Do you think there’s a chance for this?
– Calling an early election would not be in the interest of Fidesz-KDNP. The country’s economic performance and living standards are on the rise and positive, visible changes have occurred in family policy, health care and the education system. Until 2018, the cabinet has time to put more on the table, eliminate errors and distribute accomplishments in society, including to the poorest. Because of the absence of a single issue that the opposition can ride upon, there’s no need for the cabinet to go ahead of events.
Dr. László Csizmadia is chairman of the Civil Cooperation Forum (CÖF), a pro-government civil society organisation
cover photo: 24.hu