If there is anything that all Europeans can be proud of regardless of their nationality, origin or identity, it is most certainly the rule of law, transparency, access to legal representation and equality before the law. We can be proud of how our continent has been governed by these principles for centuries and, even if an aggressive regime has occasionally been able to drag its country away from them, we could always find our way back to them eventually. On the other hand, there has always been another system lurking at the frontiers of Europe, ready to spread its untransparent and self-interested laws – let’s call it tribalism, clan mentality or mafia. Weak monarchs or governments have been known to give in to or at least co-exist with the mafia or the oligarchs but strong leaders and strong societies refused to tolerate them.
For a long time, we may have thought that the European Union was such a strong community since we have heard so much about its values and strict but fair laws. We Hungarians had long been hoping to become a member of this alliance because we thought that its norms and regulations would protect us once and for all from the backward forces that have regularly attempted to drive our Central European country to another, Asian road. In short, we thought we would be protected from the political mafia, the oligarchs, the obscure informal networks and the consequent vulnerability, weakness and general social deprivation.
Parliamentary elections held in Serbia last weekend did not hold too many surprises for those familiar with recent political developments in the small Balkan republic. In an election originally announced for 26 April but postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, Alaksandar Vučić’s populist right-wing Serbia Progressive Party (SNS) snatched over 60 percent of the vote and some 190 mandates in the 250-seat Skupština, the Serbian parliament. The dominance of SNS is further underlined by the fact that virtually all real opposition parties dropped out of parliament regardless of parliamentary threshold cut down to 3 percent prior to the elections. Ivica Dačić’s Socialist Party scoring second place with just over 10 percent of the vote functions more like a satellite organization in a permanent governing coalition with the SNS. Thus, the strongest and only opposition party in the Serbian parliament will be the novel formation of Aleksandar Šapić, barely scraping through the threshold.
Let us be clear at the outset: it is entirely unacceptable when a police officer kneels on the neck of a defenceless person until they suffocate. However, it is equally revolting when some take advantage of the tragedy of George Floyd and use it for their political purposes to annihilate opponents. Brutality of US police is a long overdue problem that roots deeply in American society. It did not start with the inauguration of Donald Trump as some would like to see it, and it is not only aimed at black people. It is undisputedly related to the ultraliberal right to keep and bear arms or the enormous social inequalities characteristic of the US.
Even critics of the European integration would concede to the argument that it has undisputedly contributed to an unprecedented era of reconciliation between hitherto hostile nation states.
Many factors played a part in reaching a consensus on the continent. The tragic common experience of horror and devastation on all sides in two subsequent world wars only partly explain the joint endeavour to build a European cooperation. Nothing ever was built on negation and negative experiences only. Creativity, goodwill, trust and vision are all necessary to construct a lasting mechanism. Without the cooperation and wisdom of a generation of like-minded political leaders, reigning in the Western hemisphere European integration could not have become reality.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Trianon peace treaty. Such occasions create an opportunity for reflection on the past and an evaluation of lost opportunities and even perhaps contemplation of the future.
As it usually is the case in any historical evaluation, a treaty concluding a devastating war generally creates grievance and suffering for the losers and opportunities for the winners. This is certainly the case for the treaty ending the First World War, the most tragic war of human history to date. For Hungarians the treaty meant the dissolution of their 1000-year old kingdom, a loss of two thirds of its territory and 3.2 million of its ethnicity to neighbouring countries. On the other hand, for winners it meant territorial gain, resources and – in many instances – the birth of their independent nationhood on the ruins of another state.
The announcement by the European Commission of a recovery plan was hailed as an unprecedented sign of solidarity in the history of the European Union. Certainly, the EU has never faced an economic crisis comparable to the one unfolding and this required urgent and substantial financial measures that can assist ailing member states.
Far from approved, the plan and the numbers are robust. A EUR 500 billion recovery fund pooled by the EU from international stock markets and distributed to stricken member states in the form of grants and loans, coupled with a EUR 1000 billion funding embedded in the multiannual financial framework – as the seven year budget of the EU is known – looks like an adequate answer to fight the negative impacts of the pandemic. Additionally, earlier this year the EU already adopted a EUR 540 billion package, composed of financial loans and funds to help support SME’s and protects job across the continent.