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We should APPLAUD Hungary for standing up to liberal EU nonsense, says WILLIAM HALLOWELL

These questions arise every time a European nation confounds the expectations of Europe’s political elites centred in Brussels. Any departure from the liberal norm triggers a chorus of condemnation and alarm from European partners, and especially the media. Take Brexit. How could a forward-thinking nation like the UK turn its back on the globalist vision of the European institutions? How could the British electorate have the temerity to hold values that do not conform to the norm?

In Britain, Leave voters are still treated with disdain and revulsion by the media class. The contempt for the electorate is palpable. Whether from Remain voters, other EU member states or the EU itself, non-conformity has led to angry condemnation.

The current bête noir is the Hungarian Government. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has endured consistent attack since becoming PM for the second time in 2011. The outrage is loudest in left-leaning sections of the media.

No-one would agree with everything the Hungarian PM has done. Far from it. But he appears to be on course to win another term in office – a fourth – in April. Surely this calls for a more humble exploration of what lies behind his success? British politicians might even learn something.

There are two main causes of condemnation. The first is Orbán’s insistence on the primacy of the nation state, which translates into policies that prioritise Hungary’s own interests. There are parallels to the “America first” mantra of the Trump era, which only exacerbates the hostility of responses.

The second is the Government’s belief in traditional Christian values, and a policy slate that prioritises the family.

Hungary’s prioritisation of the national interest causes indignation because the EU, in its essence, is antithetical to the nation state. The Brussels worldview requires the national interest to be set aside in favour of the community. It demands conformity on economic and legal affairs, but also ideological alignment. Any deviation constitutes an attack.

Yet, on totemic issue after totemic issue, Hungary chooses to deviate. On immigration, it refused to take a quota of immigrants as part of an EU-wide settlement programme, and rapidly built a fence to keep illegal immigrants out.

The member states that complained the loudest were naval and trading powers like France and Holland, which historically pursued expansionary foreign policies and established overseas colonies. Their elites ideologised the merits of the Western model and thought it should replace the customs and traditions of indigenous peoples. They largely still do.

Conversely, throughout their history, continental powers like Hungary have feared the emergence of such nomadic peoples. Geography goes a long way to explaining this mindset. Take a look at a map.

Hungary’s Christian values are a similar point of conflict. Its defence of “family values” is a steady source of uproar for certain sections of the media.

Hungary defends its decision to ban the teaching of LGBT content in schools on the grounds of parental prerogative. It does nothing to restrict the liberties of LGBT people, the Government insists. 

There is a genuine and worthy debate to be had about how to balance traditional institutions with unlimited personal freedoms. The Hungarian Government’s decision may not be universally liked, but it is falling on one side of a complex discourse.

In today’s polarised politics, there is little common ground between Orbán’s brand of national conservatism and Western Europe’s hyper-liberalism. As a consequence, media coverage of Hungary is pretty appalling. I think the conservative experiment in Hungary deserves closer inspection and greater respect.

Orbán is consistently described as “authoritarian”, “extreme right” and “neo-fascist”. But as one Anglo-Hungarian writer recently commented: “Hungary knows what a dictator looks like, and Viktor Orbán is not one.”

To this non-Hungarian reader, most writers appear to have little knowledge of the country itself, and certainly not the language (in fairness, very few do). PM Orbán is sometimes prone to base politics, just like every leader. But it is Hungarians who should hold him to account at free and fair elections.

And when they return him to office in large majorities, we should acknowledge that a lazy read-across from London or Brussels is not sufficient.

William Hallowell is political writer and commentator covering politics, society and culture in Britain. He is a columnist for the Wolves of Westminster, the Mallard and Conservative Post. He is also the Editor of the Right Report UK.



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