Would Hungary make the cut for EU entry today?

Written by Rupinder Singh Friday, 20 January 2012 20:40
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Rupinder's musings on economics and development

Would Hungary make the cut for EU entry today?

This question in many ways encapsulates the political-economy questions facing both the recent CEE entrant into the EU and the fate of the Union itself amidst the on-going Euro crisis that has yet to be played out.
The blueprint for EU Accession was/is the so-called Copenhagen criteria set out at the European Council there in 1993 that set out the joint pre-conditions of a State being a market economy able to survive the rigours of the Single Market and a democracy with institutions that guarantee rule of law, human rights and protection of minorities.

And the country met the conditions and duly joined the EU Club in the Big Bang of May 2004.
Fast forward to 2010/11 …and…Hungary finds itself subject to infringement procedures by the Commission, the EU’s Executive for constitutional measures, freedom of the press, judiciary and the central bank; and a dressing down of its PM, Victor Orban, by the European Parliament that has threatened today, Jan 19th, to escalate punitive measures last taken against Austria in 2000 when it dallied with the far-right party of Jorg Haider.

Victor Orban, Hungary's prime minister, has come in for a lot of flak. Here is a man who started off on the left-of-centre at the beginning of transition and is now occupying a nationalistic banner firmly on the right wing of domestic and European politics amid an overwhelming mandate from the electorate in 2010. His nationalistic go-alone model has been compared to the Putin-model followed in Russia of centralisation of power and politics.
Alas Mr Putin has had economic independence through Russia’s hydrocarbon endowment…as well as a black belt in Judo to boot …
The economic crisis globally and within the EU partly propelled Mr Orban back into power. History is rife with examples of economic collapse and rise of nationalism and there are signs of this across the EU from the rise of the Finnish People’s Movement, through Holland, France and - with the extension of the EU eastwards - into geographies last understood in the West in the pre-communist area of the collapsing Austian-Hungarian territories.
Yes, the Euro crisis has seen a domino effect of collapsing right-of-centre governments affected by the sovereign debt crisis from Ireland, Iberia via Italy through Greece by left-of-centre ones but with the exception of Spain, the jury is still out if these technocratic governments have sufficient traction and political experience to sustain the argument to austerity-fed electorates.

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