October 20th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Internal strife at Fortress ABC by Peter Westmore

EDITORIAL The state is separating children from families

CANBERRA OBSERVED Liberals are bare favourites for Wentworth

DEREGULATION Sugar growers are getting burned on churned-up playing field

EUROPE Attempt to discipline Hungary divides the EU

CHINA Social Credit System gives complete control of every citizen

EDUCATION Curriculum refinements will not fix schools

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Banks' failures are a symptom of social malaise

HISTORY Moby Dick and American exceptionalism

SHAKESPEARE Tick-tock: clues to the timeless appear of the Bard

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Trump to UN: we'll do it our way; you do it yours

MUSIC Well-tempered scale: might put an alien in a bad temper

CINEMA Alpha: Beautiful beginnings

BOOK REVIEW Essays towards reconstruction

BOOK REVIEW Can society survive the decay of religion?


CLIMATE CHANGE Hockey 1, hockey 2: Good science contradicts IPCC's two-degree alarmism

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Attempt to discipline Hungary divides the EU

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, October 20, 2018

A push by the European Parliament to punish Hungary because of its refusal to take immigrants from the Middle East, its opposition to the European Union’s extreme environmental policies, and laws preventing overseas-funded NGOs operating in the country, is further dividing the EU, from which Britain is expected to withdraw early next year.

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban

The European Parliament carried a resolution threatening Hungary’s voting rights within the EU by 448 votes to 197. However, to be effective, the vote must be endorsed by all 27 countries in the EU.

The Hungarian Government, led by Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party, responded defiantly to the European Parliament’s vote, describing it as “petty revenge” following his re-election last April on an anti-EU, anti-immigration platform.

In the Hungarian election, Fidesz and its allies won over 130 of the 199 seats in the Parliament. The election was largely fought around issues of immigration and outside interference in Hungary’s political process.

Export-based economy

Although Hungary has a population of less than 10 million, it is one of the most important and prosperous countries in central Europe. It is an export-oriented market economy with a heavy emphasis on foreign trade, being the 35th largest export economy in the world.

In 2015, the country had more than $US100 billion of exports – with a trade surplus of $US9.003 billion – of which 79 per cent went to the EU and 21 per cent was extra-EU trade. Its unemployment rate is lower than 4 per cent, the envy of many countries in the EU.

A side-issue inside Hungary has been the role of American-Hungarian émigré, George Soros, whose Open Society Foundation has been bankrolling pro-EU, pro-immigration campaigns inside Hungary, and financing legal cases against the Hungarian Government in the European Court of Human Rights over its treatment of refugees.

The European Parliament consists of politicians elected within individual European countries, and represents nothing more than the pro-EU constituency within Europe.

Its hostility towards the Hungarian Government is visceral, and entirely ineffective. Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, is not answerable to the European Parliament based in Strasbourg, or to the EU bureaucracy based in Brussels, but to the people in his own country, and they have given him an overwhelming mandate.

Mr Orbán flew to Strasbourg to participate in the debate, delivering a fiery speech that he would not give in to “blackmail” and describing the motion as an insult to Hungarians.

The motion condemning Hungary was actually moved by a member of the Greens from Holland. It was supported by French President Emmanuel Macron, whose spokesman described it as “a good signal”, as Macron prepares to mobilise the pro-EU vote in France in next year’s European Parliament elections.

The prospect of Hungary actually being punished by the European Parliament is zero, because other Central European countries, including neighbouring Poland and Bulgaria, have already declared that they will veto any EU resolution.

Further, the tide of opinion within Western Europe is swinging against the EU. Recently, a new coalition Government was formed in Italy, one of the largest countries in the EU. The Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, recently met with Mr Orbán and declared his support for the Hungarian leader.

Mr Salvini leads the Northern League in Italy, a party that has been openly critical of the EU and its failure to deal with the flood of people coming into Italy from North Africa and the Middle East, as well as the EU’s restrictive economic policies.

The new Italian Government is com­mitted to an expansionary budget, which is strongly opposed by both Italy’s central bank and the European Central Bank. Recently, Bank of Italy governor Ignazio Visco warned the populist Government of a negative market reaction and an “unsustainable” risk for the country’s massive debt if its 2019 budget presses ahead with spending increases and plans to widen the deficit.

Mr Salvini said that if the budget is courageous, “and it will be”, extra decimal points on the deficit won’t matter.

He said he’d spoken to foreign investors. “All of them, and I underline ‘all’, told me the same thing: do a courageous, expansionary budget,” the deputy premier said.

Both Mr Salvini’s Northern League, and its coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, are pressuring Finance Minister Giovanni Tria as they seek funds to deliver on campaign promises, including a “citizen’s income” for the poor, tax cuts and rollbacks to pension reforms.

In the meantime, Viktor Orbán’s Government continues to win support for his strong policies across Central Europe. Mr Orbán and like-minded leaders across Europe are looking to make significant gains in European Parliament elections next year. Some predict that an insurgent wave could threaten the project of European integration.

The EU has already imposed greater control over the flow of migrants by tightening its external borders and setting up new migration processing centres in North Africa.

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