This week, Aljazeera and BBC showed international alarm after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government drafted a bill that criminalizes helping refugees, which follows suggesting a 25% tax on non-governmental organizations who fund foreign migrants. This is threatening to Hungarian nationals because it challenges their right to help refugees and is adding to the unwelcoming anti-immigration stance in Hungary. While this policy is still in the drafting process, it condemns those personally providing humanitarian aid to people seeking asylum and has the potential to foster internal frustration for the democratic rights of Hungarian citizens while simultaneously exacerbating issues within the European Union through member state cooperation.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has voiced concerns for this policy and fear the ‘Xenophobic rhetoric’ Orban’s policy and leadership is creating. Orban’s party Fidesz won the parliamentary election in April with a 49% plurality and vote of confidence, but the party is anti-supra-nationalism and blames the European Union for immigration issues. It is not only external organizations that are concerned with Orban’s immigration stance, but citizens of Hungary are challenging his leadership through rights of expression. Aljazeera reported on the 9th of May, a public demonstration took to the streets in Budapest against his rule, and was the third protest in the space of thirty days.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stated that Fidesz governance has “constricted space for genuine political debate” by using “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing.” This is non-democratic and it is threatening to the citizens of Hungary. It also threatens the refugees that reside there or use the country as a stepping stone into Western Europe. It also suggests that democratic rule is declining, causing the country to no longer meet the EU’s Copenhagen Criteria, which is threatening secession from the EU.
Hungary’s current political position is concerning for the Hungarian citizens who do not support Orban’s leadership, becasue this could lead to inner turmoil within Hungary with the demonstrations against Fidesz party rule, as people see their political and liberal rights tampered with. But also, immigrants and refugees are left feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in a state that is targeting them with political policy that indirectly pushes them out of Hungarian borders; and internationally this could lead to member states of the EU speaking out against Hungary as a member state, against their validity for membership.
The political movement of Hungarian society is important for vocalizing of opinions, as this protects their rights and shows the support they give to the refugees. It should be in the best interest of the Fidesz for the stability and power of their party to consider the other 51% of the population that didn’t vote for them in their political support, otherwise the protests could turn violent and the state could also mount a forceful response, leading to internal conflict. By suggesting a compromise, the cooperation and harmony in Hungarian society will have a chance to return. Furthermore, I suggest that the EU use their power position within the Commission and Council to aid Hungary, listening to the frustration and concerns with immigration that are leading to these policy ideas. They will need to see both sides of the coin and again compromise with Orban. If this doesn’t succeed, they could impose EU membership repercussions if democratic backsliding persists. It is evident that Orban is feeling targeted by international media and EU expectations, but there is a civil and supportive way to address the issues arising, and, particularly, to ensure the final bill of criminalization of aiding asylum seekers is questioned and debated for the issues it is overcoming, with non-discriminatory and democratic rhetoric.
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