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Opinion piece by Judit Varga, the Minister of State for European Union Relations. The article was originally published on Mandiner.

Judith Sargentini is provoking Hungary. There can be no other reason for her being worried only for the protests in Hungary out of all the protests all over Europe. If I was not familiar with her activities, I would think she is kind of biased towards the Hungarian nation, but she is not. Unfortunately, she is not. Instead, she shouts us from the rooftops of the Benelux states together with her comrade, Verhofstadt, practically every week. Though, be it said in her favour, at least Sargentini is not using foul language when doing so. She just simply borrows the mostly untrue allegations of the Hungarian opposition that are most of the time neither civic, nor democratic. Therefore, Sargentini’s communication published Monday needs to be corrected allegation by allegation. No one should be left with the impression of her writing the truth.

• Sargentini: ”The new ‘slave law’ is just the tip of the iceberg for a country that is nosediving into state control and authoritarianism. With so many young people forced to leave Hungary and a complete ban on migration, Viktor Orbán is trying to force the population to work longer, without pay, to make up for the labour shortages that he has created.”

• Reality:
– The applicable EU Regulation allows for 416 hours of overtime, which is more than that stipulated in the new Hungarian regulation. What is more, the current number of overtime hours may not be increased with a single hour unless the employee voluntarily consents to it – and voluntary overtime, as its name indicates, is not compulsory. Any deviation from the total work time is only possible if agreed by the employer and the employee in line with the Collective Agreement. And overtime hours must be paid each month.
– Sargentini’s reasoning usually fails to include the persuasion of the European youth to return to their home countries, she only keeps emphasizing the importance of migration. In contrast, for eight years now, the Hungarian government has been working on creating the most attractive environment possible for its fellow countrymen living abroad to return. Currently, nearly one hundred thousand vacant posts are open to them and we also endeavour to facilitate the relocation of the Hungarian youth with many demographic and housing programmes. Moreover, we also encourage other EU Member States to do so as an alternative to mass immigration. Nevertheless, talking about the migration of the youth is rather demagogue in the EU where the “four freedoms”, including in particular the free movement of persons – the free movement of workers –, is a fundamental principle.

• Sargentini: “Viktor Orbán and his cronies now have almost complete control of the media and the courts and have closed a prominent university proving that Hungary’s short spell of post-Communist democracy has come to an end. Unfortunately, Orbán’s assaults on peoples’ freedoms and individual rights only hurt the Hungarian people, which is why so many are out on the streets protesting his authoritarianism.”

• Reality:
– If we look at the online media and take into account the politically relevant websites and the data on average daily pageviews, there are 1,196,359 pro-government pageviews against 3,000,859 government-critical pageviews, in total, representing a 29–71% ratio in the online space in favour of the government-critical portals. In television broadcasting, the viewing figures of government-critical vs. pro-government news programmes is 54% to 46%, according to the analysis made by Médianéző. These figures are supported by facts (as opposed to Sargentini’s constantly repeated but unsubstantiated allegations) showing that, according to online media, TV news programmes and aggregated data, the government-critical press is still dominant in Hungary.
– The independent and free government of Hungary will re-introduce the system of administrative courts after it had been dismantled by the communist dictatorship back in 1949. This public law failure will be remedied after many years of thorough legal preparatory work. It is important to note that there are many examples of separate administrative courts also in other EU Member States and their purpose is to ensure stronger legal protection to citizens against authorities.
– Közép-európai Egyetem will stay in Budapest and Central European University will move to Vienna. This is how we can briefly summarise the impact of the amended law, which is not at all unique in Europe. In fact, many Member States, e.g. Germany, apply even stricter requirements.

Sargentini’s and Verhofstadt’s diatribes and disinformation are precursors to the 2019 European Parliament elections. They represent a vision that is the direct opposite of ours. They would like to see an immigration promoting United States of Europe. Contrarily, we envisage a strong Europe that protects its borders and relies on the strong alliance of sovereign nation states that mutually respect each other. In nearly half a year, choice can be made between these two approaches from Lisbon to Helsinki.

By Judit Varga, the Minister of State for European Union Relations

Featured photo by Gergely Botár/kormany.hu


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