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O’Sullivan: More Europe Is Not the Solution, It’s the Problem

Júlia Tar 2019.03.20.

In an interview with Mandiner, Hungarian Order of Merit recipient John O’Sullivan explained that there are certain things that affect everyone regardless of location, and migration is one of them. The President of the Danube Institute and member of the Friends of Hungary Community stressed the importance he believes migration will hold at the EP election in May and predicted that this will be the year of parties outside the establishment. According to O’Sullivan, the true conflict is between citizens and the political elite rather than Eastern and Western Europe.

For O’Sullivan, everything began with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. At the time, though still a student, his adoration of the Hungarian nation truly started to take shape. Later, while working for Szabad Európa Rádió and Hungarian Review, he had the great fortune of getting better acquainted with the country, and this newfound familiarity led to the establishment of the Danube Institute.

President of Danube Institute John O’Sullivan Awarded with Hungarian Order of Merit


The Danube Institute exists to provide an independent center of intellectual debate for conservatives, classical liberals and their Democratic opponents in Central Europe. Based in Budapest and Washington, it seeks to engage with center-right institutions, scholars, political parties and accomplished individuals across the region to discuss problems of mutual interest.

Although O’Sullivan is now an open supporter of Brexit, this has not always been the case. His role as a university student and career entrant spawned his support of the EU. Initially, he desired stronger economic cooperation, however, upon realizing that the EU is more than a free trade zone, he had a change of heart. He was particularly bothered by voters being unable to dismiss the European Commission in the same way they could a country’s government. Ultimately, though, O’Sullivan admits there are a number of things that could and should have been done differently where Brexit is concerned.

He feels that the suggestion that populism is innate to Eastern Europeans is an egregious “myth,” and one no more factual than the idea that Western Europeans are born liberal democrats. In defense of this claim, O’Sullivan cites the growing number of populist parties popping up in Western Europe. In his opinion, the conflict is not between the East and West, but between citizens and the political elite. After all, it seems that people’s problems tend to be similar despite differences in geography. They all share a kindred concern for unemployment, migration, nation states and the future of the EU. In order to overcome these obstacles, O’Sullivan believes a harmonious relationship between Eastern and Western Europe is essential.

O’Sullivan emphasized the differences between controlled, small scale migration and mass migration. He believes that small scale migration can be beneficial if well controlled, particularly because integration is easier to accomplish, but thinks that mass migration often leads to a large part of society being formed by immigrants.  In the latter, assimilation is more difficult as it runs the risk of resulting in multiculturalism which alters the structure of the society in question. As a result, the indigenous groups may find themselves feeling like aliens in their own homes.

In 2019, O’Sullivan expects both left and right-wing parties to grow in strength in the European Parliament. According to him, this will be a direct result of poor decisions made by the European People’s Party and the Party of European Socialists during the economic crisis of 2008 and the migration crisis of 2018. He maintains that the central parties need to utilize a far more critical tone towards the European elite in order to acquire a parliamentary majority. O’Sullivan anticipates that in 2019, parties outside of the establishment will realize that more Europe is not the solution but the problem.

Photos by Péter Csákvári/Hungary Today

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