What is happening in Yemen and where does the EU stand?

by Lea Schiller

The civil war in Yemen began five years ago in 2015, when Shiite rebels named Houthi took control of its capital city Sana’a after negotiations with the government failed. In March, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and support by the United States launched air strikes against the insurgents. Since then, numerous attempts at installing peace – including peace talks facilitated by the UN – failed, and regional powers such as the Gulf states and Iran continuously intervene in the conflict.

Meanwhile, the toll on Yemen’s population has been enormous. According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “four out of every five people” need lifesaving aid, which makes the number of Yemeni people dependent on relief efforts 24 million in total. More than eight million directly rely on UNICEF for water, and their operations in Yemen are so short of money that some are at risk of being shut down, which would leave millions without soap and water. Additionally, the war has displaced millions from their homes, many of them fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Djibouti.

And not only do precarious sanitary conditions and floods increase the risk of older diseases like malaria, dengue fever and cholera, but COVID-19 now poses an even bigger threat to the population of Yemen. Since the country recorded its first case on April 10th, the number has risen into the thousands. But considering the low testing rates and the disorganised situation in the country, the real numbers are likely to be much higher – and according to Guterres, it is likely that community transmission has already begun in Yemen. Mortality rates are among the highest in the world, which is not surprising given that trying to improve the country’s health services (such as hospital’s supplies of electricity and oxygen) is difficult when half the population does not have access to clean water.

What Yemen lacks is about 2 and a half billion US dollars in aid. The EU has given almost 500 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen, mostly focused on food, healthcare and hygiene measures. Nevertheless, Yemen is still in dire need of lifesaving aid, and according to UN Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Lowcock, gathering the money necessary to deliver aid is the biggest problem. But what Yemen needs most is peace. In October 2018, after the death of Saudi-Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the European Parliament called on its member states to stop weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Germany responded with suspending all its arms exports to Saudi Arabia, but after pressure coming from the United Kingdom and France, where companies depend on German-made components to build their arms, the decision was revoked.

In the EU, the Common Position on arms export controls defines the criteria by which potential export licenses must be judged – including respect for human rights. But although it is legally binding, there is no mechanism to enforce it, and since defence policy lies with the member states’ sovereignty, it is often ignored in favour of commercial interests. And since EU-made arms have allegedly already been used in multiple strikes that involved civilian casualties and at the very least enabled Saudi Arabia to launch military intervention in Yemen in the first place, this begs the question how the EU can justify this next to its commitment to human rights and the rule of law. In France, minister Florence Parly first claimed that French weapons were not directly used in the war. When evidence of the contrary surfaced, she claimed there was no evidence that these weapons had been intentionally used against civilians. To hold onto its values and promote peace in the region, the EU needs to start enforcing its Common Position on export controls.

Bild von David Peterson auf Pixabay

References

European Commission. (2020, June 03). Yemen. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/echo/where/ middle-east/yemen_en

Funding shortfall affecting critical water, sanitation services in Yemen. (2020, June 12th). UN News.

Retrieved from: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066192

Global Conflict Tracker. (n.d.). War in Yemen. Retrieved from: https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict- tracker/conflict/war-yemen

Kuzmanić, A., Perić, I. (2019, June 25). Yemen, a European humanitary disaster. Voxeurop. Retrieved from: https://voxeurop.eu/en/yemen-a-european-humanitary-disaster/

Mielcarek, R. (2019, October 4). Why is Europe still feeling the war in Yemen? The Nation. Retrieved from: https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/yemen-europe-weapons/

Oppenheim, B. (2019, September 18). Europe is at war over arms exports. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/18/europe-is-at-war-over-arms-exports/

Yemen: ‘Hanging on by a thread’. (2020, June 2). UN News. Retrieved from: https://news.un.org/ en/story/2020/06/1065292

Yemen: Events of 2018. (2018, December). Yemen: Events of 2018. Retrieved from: https:// www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/yemen

Orbán instrumentalizes the Hungarian trauma of Trianon

by Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

     After World War I, in 1920, the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed and Hungary was obliged to sign an agreement with the Allied Powers at the Trianon Palace in Versailles, France (Sandford & Magyar, 2020). Hungary lost two thirds of its territory and millions of people found themselves in another country from one day to another (2020, Ozsváth). Due to the immense loss of territory, almost every family experienced the consequence of Trianon, meaning that “every family has a family member who either had to leave their home and move to (the new) Hungary, or was separated for decades” (Sandford & Magyar, 2020). After World War II, Hungary was under the influence of the USSR. In the wake of the socialist doctrine, the Soviet Union aimed at pacifying the region and the trauma of Trianon was increasingly tabooed (Mdr.de, 2020). However, the conflict did not disappear. Now, 100 years after Trianon, the treaty still has an impact on national politics and the comprehension of history.

      The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, uses Trianon for his political purposes. Calling Trianon, a “dictate” (which calls to mind the right-extremist choice of words of the Nazi-Propaganda in the times of the Weimar Republic), Orbán creates a myth around Hungary’s past in order to consolidate and promote nationalist ideas (Mdr.dw, 2020). Orbán invested 14,5 Million Euro into a monument commemorating Trianon (Schlagwein, 2020).  The monument shows the names of all the 12.536 places that have been part of Hungary before World War I (Mdr.de, 2020). However, some of these places have never been populated by a Hungarian majority (Mdr.de, 2020). On the day of the centenary of Trianon, flags were at half-mast (Sandford & Magyar, 2020). By drawing attention to Trianon, Orbán not only promotes nationalist ideas, but also manipulates the national understanding of history.

      Orbán aims at creating a national feeling across borders in order to secure the electoral support of the Hungarian diaspora. Hungarian people living abroad are also granted the right to vote and a dual citizenship (Sandford & Magyar, 2020). Furthermore, Orbán supports the Hungarian diaspora financially by investing in Hungarian speaking schools, universities and churches (Fillinger & Nowotny, 2020).  The integration of the Hungarian diaspora has the purpose to generate a devoted and faithful electorate. 90% of the Hungarian diaspora living in Romania votes for Orban  (Fillinger & Nowotny, 2020). In Romania, the Hungarian minority is not well integrated in the society. Orbán actively supports the isolation of the Hungarian minority in Romania by financing Hungarian cultural and educational projects (Fillinger & Nowotny, 2020). By further contributing to the isolation of the Hungarian diaspora he not only secures important votes, but also creates a relationship of dependence which has a positive effect on his expansion of power.

      The isolation of the Hungarian minority, however, also leads to conflicts as in 2019, when Romanian nationalists and Hungarian nationalists disputed “the right to place crosses for Romanian soldiers in an international war cemetery which contains the remains of soldiers of multiple nationalities from both world wars” (Palfi, Asbóth, & Musaddique, 2019). In Slovakia, Hungarians are better integrated into the society. The party of the Hungarian minority has even been part of government from time to time (Fillinger & Nowotny, 2020). In Slovakia, only 50% of the Hungarian minority support Orbán. This shows that the more Orbán influences the Hungarian diaspora politically and financially, the more likely the electorate is to support him.

      In May 2020, Orbán published a post on Facebook showing a map of Hungary before World War I, before Trianon, on the occasion of the final history high school exams in the subject history (Schlagwein, 2020). This was an international scandal. The president of Slovenia, Borut Pahor expressed “rejection and concern” over the map (Walker, 2020). This shows that until today Trianon is a sensitive issue. However, approximately 85% of Hungarians see Trianon as Hungary’s “greatest tragedy” (Than & Fenyo, 2020). This shows that Orbán’s attempts to manipulate the country’s understanding of history was successful.

      In conclusion, Orbán successfully instrumentalized Trianon for its purposes. By drawing attention to Trianon, Orbán promoted nationalist ideas and manipulated the national understanding of history.  In the wake of the idea of the “dictate of Trianon”, Orbán can more easily mobilize his electorate and justify his extension of power. 

References

Fillinger, R., & Nowotny, S. (2020, June 02). 100 Jahre Vertrag von Trianon – Das ungarische Trauma und Orbans grossungarische Ambitionen. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.srf.ch/news/international/100-jahre-vertrag-von-trianon-das-ungarische-trauma-und-orbans-grossungarische-ambitionen

Mdr.de. (2020, June 04). Trianon: Ein Friedensvertrag stiftet Unfrieden. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.mdr.de/zeitreise/trianon-ungarn-friedensvertrag-geschichte-100.html

Ozsváth, S. (2020, June 03). 100 Jahre Vertrag von Trianon – Geschichtspolitik mit einem ungarischen Trauma. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/100-jahre-vertrag-von-trianon-geschichtspolitik-mit-einem.976.de.html?dram:article_id=477909

Palfi, R., Asbóth, B., & Musaddique, S. (2019, June 10). Tensions flare between Romania and Hungary after cemetery incident. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from https://www.euronews.com/2019/06/07/romanian-crowd-break-into-austro-hungarian-world-war-i-graveyard

Sandford, A., & Magyar, Á. (2020, June 04). Trianon trauma: Why is the 1920 treaty a national tragedy for Hungary? Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.euronews.com/2020/06/04/trianon-trauma-why-is-the-peace-treaty-signed-100-years-ago-seen-as-a-national-tragedy

Schlagwein, F. (2020, June 03). 100 Jahre Trianon: Ungarns nationales Trauma. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from https://www.msn.com/de-de/nachrichten/other/100-jahre-trianon-ungarns-nationales-trauma/ar-BB14YEKr

Than, K., & Fenyo, K. (2020, June 05). One century on, Hungarians still feel World War One ‘injustice’. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ww1-century-hungary-trianon/one-century-on-hungarians-still-feel-world-war-one-injustice-idUSKBN23B1SD

Veyder-Malberg, T. (2019, October 23). Geschichtspolitik in Ungarn: Opfermythos und Revolution. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/osteuropa/politik/ungarn-geschichte-orban-opfermythos-100.html

Walker, S. (2020, June 04). Hungary marks treaty centenary as Orbán harnesses ‘Trianon trauma’. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/04/viktor-orban-fuels-hungarian-nationalism-with-treaty-of-trianon-centenary

Chinese Wolf Warrior Diplomacy and Sino-EU relations

by André Francischetti Moreno

             The European Union’s concerns with its commercial relations with China have been gaining new dimensions with the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. Sino-European partnership      goes from the political to the economic realm, encompassing environmental policies and debates about human rights. The global pandemic and the need to strengthen the Chinese image in the National Assembly, in Beijing, pushed China to an aggressive diplomacy style that is causing tension amidst European actors. 

              While many countries still struggle with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis, China seems to be recovering quickly, at least for now. Pragmatic cooperation with Beijing regarding medical supplies and assistance is indeed at the top of the Sino-European agenda, nevertheless, Xi Jinping is also taking the height of the crisis as an opportunity to exploit political and economic vulnerabilities in Europe. 

              At the beginning of the crisis, when countries like Italy and Spain were hit hard by the high number of infections, the European Union was divided on how to deal with the situation. The lack of action by the EU and the lack of solidarity among EU members not only caused a new wave of Euroscepticism to arise but gave China space to offer essential medical support that was urgently needed. Xi Jinping raised the notion of building a “Health Silk Road” while talking to the Italian PM Giuseppe Comte, in what many specialists would interpret as one of the many soft power victories China is striking in Europe. 

              The escalating tensions in the Sino-Indian border, Hong Kong, South and East China seas, increasing investments in nuclear weapons able to reach many NATO members, violation of human rights regarding the Uyghur minority and disinformation campaigns attempted the European Union to an aggressive Chinese diplomacy style and its inability to stand up to it. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell highlighted Beijing’s advances to play on the differences between Europeans. It is not news that Chinese investments in Europe have repeatedly blocked EU statements criticizing Beijing’s actions, as it was the case of Hungary and Greece rejecting a declaration against Chinese actions in the South China sea. However, in the past months, China tried to intervene in the European information network. In April, for example, Beijing pressured Brussels to modify the wording of the EU’s report on disinformation. Along with, the China Daily, under the influence of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, required the EU ambassador to delete a sentence declaring that the outbreak of the pandemic happened in China as a condition to publish a Sino-European relations celebration text (co-written by him and 27 EU ambassadors). The modification was accepted by the EU delegation, causing a fierce opposition in Europe. Also in this period, the Chinese embassy in France accused French care workers of abandoning elderly patients to starve and die. This type of declarations about the mismanagement of European countries toward the crisis and the spread of fake news led the European Commission Vice-President, Vera Jourova, to say that, “Foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China, have engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns around COVID-19 in the EU, its neighborhood and globally, seeking to undermine democratic debate and exacerbate social polarization, and improve their image in the COVID-19 context.”

            In Europe, the last word in foreign affairs still rests on national governments, so that it remains difficult to present a united front against or in favor of foreign actors in many matters. Knowing that different European countries face different types of pressure, it is important to hold an open yet watchful posture toward foreign investments in companies that are key to the national interest and security. In the Sino-European case, for example, China is a relevant partner in climate change policies, the EU’s biggest source of imports, and its second-biggest export market. Particularly, China holds many investments in Europe, buying for instance stakes in many airports, ports, and relevant industrial companies. Most of these are made by private actors, thus representing no political harm. However, several private actors are subsidized by the Chinese government, causing unfair competition to European companies, and raising concern that some of these actors may be influenced by the Chinese government.

            All in all, it is as desirable that the European Union stands for an open trade relationship with China as it is to combat Beijing’s protectionism and aggressive diplomacy. Some ways to do that is by balancing Chinese investments and demanding (as well as showing on the EU’s behalf) transparency. In June, the European Commission presented a package of tools to protect the European business fabric, such as engines to control the purchase of European companies by foreign parties (mainly those who receive state support). Nevertheless, a recurrent problem came up again: the EU Member States are also in competition with each other, and the approval of such tools is still uncertain.

References

European Commission Directorate-General for Trade. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/china/

Stolton, S. (2020, June 10). ‘Time to tell the truth’ on Chinese disinformation, Jourova says. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/time-to-tell-the-truth-on-chinese-disinformation-jourova-says/

(www.dw.com), D. (n.d.). NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg sounds warning on China’s rise: DW: 13.06.2020. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.dw.com/en/natos-jens-stoltenberg-sounds-warning-on-chinas-rise/a-53795384

Myers, S. (2020, April 17). China’s Aggressive Diplomacy Weakens Xi Jinping’s Global Standing. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/world/asia/coronavirus-china-xi-jinping.html

Baker, L. (2020, May 14). As China pushes back on virus, Europe wakes to ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-europe-china-insig/as-china-pushes-back-on-virus-europe-wakes-to-wolf-warrior-diplomacy-idUSKBN22Q2EZ

Diplomat, M. (2020, June 06). China Isn’t Losing Europe Yet. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2020/06/china-isnt-losing-europe-yet/

Small, A. (1970, May 13). The meaning of systemic rivalry: Europe and China beyond the pandemic. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/the_meaning_of_systemic_rivalry_europe_and_china_beyond_the_pandemic

UE-China debatem futuro das relações comerciais. (2020, June 21). Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://pt.euronews.com/2020/06/20/ue-china-debatem-futuro-das-relacoes-comerciais

A Landmark Ruling? – How a national court’s decision could change the EU

by Lea Schiller

When Germany’s constitutional court ruled that the European Central Bank (ECB) had violated the German constitution, the effects were immediate – the value of the Euro as well as the debt ratings of the eurozone countries fell. Next to being unprecedented, the decision also came at a time at which it puts pressure on the coronavirus relief package of the ECB – and the response among policymakers and legal experts was accordingly urgent.

Though the court issued its decision on the 5th of May, the case had been going on for much longer. It goes back to 2015, when the ECB established its public sector purchase programme (PSPP), which was supposed to stabilise the eurozone after the financial crisis by buying government debt.

In the years that followed, the German constitutional court asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a judgement on the bond-buying program of the ECB twice, and twice did the ECJ issue its permission to the ECB. Now, on the grounds that the ECB was overstepping its mandate and failed to incorporate political oversight into the purchases of the bonds, the German constitutional court has ruled the ECB has violated the German constitution.

EU law still remains superior to national law, and the ECB is not a subject of German national law. The German central bank (Bundesbank) however, is bound by the decision of the German constitutional court. The ECB now has three months to explain why their bond purchases are proportionate to their mandate – otherwise, the Bundesbank, which is the biggest shareholder of the ECB, would have to pull out of the PSPP. And this is the crux of the issue: although the German constitutional court recognises the EU’s exclusive competence in monetary policy, it has still put forward a judgement on whether or not the ECB and the ECJ are operating within their mandate. It could set, as many have argued in the following weeks, a dangerous precedent.

The reactions to this ruling were widespread and mixed – in Poland for instance, prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the decision one of the most important rulings in the history of the EU, as it reaffirms the agency of member states. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen meanwhile is considering starting a treaty violation proceeding against Germany. Monetary policy is an exclusive EU competence, she reasoned, and the ruling therefore posed questions that touched the heart of the EU’s sovereignty. Members of the European Parliament called for all EU institutions to support the decisions of the ECJ, to avoid putting the integrity of the EU’s court and the eurozone in jeopardy. In the end, not even legal experts share a consensus on what this decision means for the future of the ECB and, by extension, the EU. While some theorise it could lead to the break-up of the eurozone, others see the decision itself as a threat to the ECB’s independence. This is especially interesting since – though formally, the ruling has no effect on this – the ECB’s coronavirus relief package is a €750bn bond-buying program, which could now also be called into question.

Photo by Charlotte Venema on Unsplash

References

References:

EZB-Anleihekaufprogramm teilweise verfassungswidrig. (2020, May 5). Tagesschau. Retrieved from https://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/urteil-ezb-anleihen-101.html

Urteil zu Anleihekäufen: EU prüft Verfahren gegen Deutschland. (2020, May 10). Tagesschau. Retrieved from: https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/eu-kommission-vertragsverletzungsverfahren-101.html

German court criticises European Central Bank crisis bond-buying. (2020, May 5). BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52542993

Münchau, W. (2020, May 10). The European Central Bank is deluding itself over German court ruling. The Financial Times. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/fc487cac-9105-11ea-9207-ace009a12028

Taylor, C. (2020, May 8). German court ruling on ECB purchases is ‘laughable,’ Societe Generale chair says. CNBC. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/08/german-court-ruling-on-ecb-purchases-is-laughable-socgen-chair.html

Antisemitism in Poland

by Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

    In 2018, after the introduction of Poland’s contested Holocaust law, Jews faced a wave of antisemitism. The law aimed at legally prohibiting statements accusing Poland of collaboration with the Nazis (Santora, 2018). Due to the international protest, the Polish government decided to weaken the Holocaust law by amending the punishments in case of violations of the law; the amended Holocaust law refrains from a three-year prison sentence (Zeit Online, 2018). In Poland, antisemitic beliefs are adopted both by people with poor educational backgrounds and by people with high educational backgrounds (Krzeminski, 2002, p. 25). Even young people agree with antisemitic ideas. A study of 566 young poles conducted in 2011 showed that “more than 30% of young Poles think that Jews abuse Polish feelings of guilt” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813). Antisemitism is represented in the left and right political spectrum (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 831). However, studies have shown that a significant percentage of voters of the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the conservative-nationalist party (PSL) share antisemitic attitudes (Zuk, 2017, p. 85). The scholar Werner Bergman (2008) also claims that antisemitism is highly correlated with right-wing national attitudes which can be illustrated by the fear about the Holocaust’s negative repercussions on the national prestige and self-confidence (p. 358). Furthermore, he evokes that “the Holocaust and the collaboration of certain sections of the nation during the Nazi persecution were initially suppressed from public consciousness after 1945 in Eastern European countries” (Bergmann, 2008, p. 359). Bergman (2008) emphasizes that the Holocaust was first addressed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, so that the country started struggling with questions about the national self-identification and self-esteem after 1989 (p. 359).  Before the Second World War, more than three million Jews lived in Poland. However, after the Holocaust, only a small number of Jewish survivors and repatriates remained in the country (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2802). Despite the small size of the Jewish community, there is an increase in antisemitism. Some scholars call this phenomenon “anti-Semitism without Jews” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.823). The question thus arises why this phenomenon is still so prevalent in a country which faced the cruelties of the Holocaust and in which Jews only represent a small ethnic minority.

    There are different forms of antisemitism in Poland. The most widespread form is modern antisemitism which is rather secular form of antisemitism and appears to be a relic from the political ideology of the Polish nationalist movement. It comprises secondary antisemitism (claiming that Jews themselves are responsible for antisemitism) and Jewish conspiracy theories (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.823).  Secondary antisemites are “willing to forget about the Holocaust and actively oppose compensation or restitution to the victims” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813)

    Different theories seek to explain the causes of antisemitism in Poland. Some scholars highlight situational aspects such as crisis or deprivation that promote antisemitic beliefs (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 824). The relative deprivation theory puts forward that ethnic prejudice results from a group’s “subjective perception of lower group status” (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p.236). The ideological model of scapegoating developed by Peter Glick, however, claims that in times of “shared frustration”, people are more prone to ideologies that blame certain groups as responsible for the situation (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p. 236). People who feel underprivileged are often frustrated and try to find someone they could blame for. Conspiracy beliefs provide a scapegoat, so that they can express their frustration in the aggression against the chosen scapegoat, which is in the Polish case the Jewish community (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p. 242). Bilewicz, Winiewski and Radzik suggest that antisemitism not only has a scapegoating function for post-transitional problems, but also “allows the denial of the responsibility of historical crimes towards Jews” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2817). However, some studies proved that personality factors such as authoritarianism and nationalism are better at predicting antisemitism than situational factors such as financial or economic crisis (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 825).  Scholars putting forward the concept of competitive victimhood to explain antisemitism, suggest that if national identification is based on ideas moral superiority and a victimization history, people within this group are more likely to deny that other groups might also share the status of historical victimhood (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.286). Competitive victimhood thus diminishes the capacity to feel empathy towards people outside of their own group (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813). Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik (2012) suggest that especially relative victimhood (“the perception that Poles were more victimized in the past than the Jews”) fuels antisemitism in Poland (p. 2813). Other scholars explained anti-Semitism in Poland with the help of the idea of collective narcissism. According to Golec de Zavala and Cichocka (2011), collective narcissism leads to antisemitism as it provokes a negative stereotyping of Jews within the non-Jewish society. The concept of collective narcissism implies that the members of a group (in-group members) develop the perception of vulnerability to external threats from out-group members which is deemed to be hostile (p. 359). Out-group members (in the Polish case, Jews) are negatively stereotyped and due to the increasing amount of stereotypes and prejudices, antisemitic ideas are fuelled. 

    In conclusion, there are situational, personality factors, and identity-related factors which might explain the phenomenon of antisemitism in Poland. However, the phenomenon appears to be very exceptional due to the fact that only a very small minority of Jews lives in Poland. The increase in antisemitism definitely raises questions about democratic values, the dealing with the past and societal values and norms.  

Photo by Erica Magugliani on Unsplash

References

Bergmann, W. (2008). Anti‐Semitic attitudes in Europe: A comparative perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 64(2), 343-362.

Bilewicz, M., & Krzeminski, I. (2010). Anti-Semitism in Poland and Ukraine: The belief in Jewish control as a mechanism of scapegoating. International Journal of Conflict and Violence (IJCV), 4(2), 234-243.

Bilewicz, M., Winiewski, M., & Radzik, Z. (2012). Antisemitism in Poland: Economic, Religious, and Historical Aspects. Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, 4, 2801.

Bilewicz, M., Winiewski, M., Kofta, M., & Wójcik, A. (2013). Harmful Ideas, The Structure and Consequences of Anti‐Semitic Beliefs in Poland. Political Psychology, 34(6), 821-839.

Golec de Zavala, A., & Cichocka, A. (2012). Collective narcissism and anti-Semitism in Poland. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15(2), 213-229.

Krzemiński, I. (2002). Polish-Jewish relations, anti-Semitism and national identity. Polish Sociological Review, 25-51.

Santora, M. (2018, February 7). Poland’s President Supports Making Some Holocaust Statements a Crime. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/world/europe/poland-holocaust-law.html 

Zeit online. (2018, June, 27). Polnische Regierung Entschärft Umstrittenes Holocaust-Gesetz. Retrieved from www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2018-06/polen-entschaerfung-holocaust-gesetz-mateusz-morawiecki

Żuk, P. (2017). Anti-Semitism in Poland, yesterday and today. Race & Class, 58(3), 81-86

The green motor of recovery

by André Francischetti Moreno

           “Nature is healing!” After several images showing how nature was positively responding to the absence of people due to isolation and lockdown measures, this saying became recurrent in many countries. Pictures of wild animals reclaiming urban spaces and even dolphins swimming in the Venetian channels were shared on social media. Although most of these reports were fake news (including, for our misfortune, the dolphins replacing the gondola in the Gran Canale), two questions gained place: Did the Coronavirus crisis have any positive impact on nature? And if so, will this effect be long-standing?

           As a matter of fact, social isolation and the fall of industrial production massively impacted the emission of greenhouse gasses. While two-thirds of the global air fleet are at standstill, in cities such as Rome and Milan the traffic fell by 85% from its normally expected levels (a pattern which is mirrored around the world), and the amount of coal used in the power industry plummeted. In fact, the International Energy Agency announced that the global energy demand will fall by 6% in 2020, causing serious damage to the gas and oil industry, while for coal the value hits 8% (a number that was not seen since World War II). Already considering the possible economic recovery in the second semester, this would lead to a decrease of 0.3% in the global carbon emission. In comparison, the great financial crisis of 2008/2009 led to a dip of 1.3% in anthropogenic emissions. By 2010, however, with many countries investing in their industries at levels never seen before, the emission of anthropogenic gases went off. The situation became so critical that in many Chinese cities, people were recommended to use masks due to poor air quality.

           From now on, governments will and should do anything to recover their economies as efficiently as possible, as well as foster transnational cooperation for this being essential in dealing with growing global problems i.e. global warming. Nevertheless, it is necessary that both officials and citizens take this moment of society restructuring as an opportunity to cause a real and long-standing positive impact on the environment. Particularly, recent actions by the European Union institutions toward this goal should be given attention, so as to give an example of how economic and environmental recovery can be joined in an integrative manner.

           In April, the European Parliament indicated that the Commission should propose a recovery and reconstruction package which had the Green Deal at its core. Namely, the European Green Deal is a proposal issued by the European Commission in December 2019 that aims to turn Europe into a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Much more than a target, it envisages a thorough transformation of the economy by changing, for instance, industrial tools, promoting clean mobilization means, and renewable energy sources. Furthermore, its strategies, such as the Biodiversity Strategy, plan to restore by 2030 damaged ecosystems, protected habitats and species, and European forests (the goal is to plant more than three billion trees). On March 4th, the European Climate Law proposal, which seeks to legally bind countries to the European Green Deal, was presented in the European Parliament and is already endorsed by a vast number of MEPs.

           Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, pointed out that one should face the challenge of rebuilding the economy as an opportunity of making it more sustainable and resilient. She also called attention to the importance of individual changes of actions such as buying sustainable products, re-using old materials, buying electric cars, and even renovating each one’s house by adding ecological systems. The European Green Deal is being called ‘the motor for Europe’s recovery’ and needs to be treated as such from the individual, to the governmental, to the international domain. The nations of the world should plan their own green strategies while reconstructing their economies because nature is at a breaking point. Based on the practical idea that all industries depend greatly on nature, the economy will never heal toward a sustainable stage, if nature itself does not.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

References

EU Circular Economy Action Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm

EU COVID-19 recovery plan must be green and ambitious, say MEPs: News: European Parliament. (2020, April 21). Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20200419IPR77407/eu-covid-19-recovery-plan-must-be-green-and-ambitious-say-meps

Has coronavirus helped the environment? (2020, April 23). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200422-how-has-coronavirus-helped-the-environment

Ludden, J., & Brady, J. (2020, April 30). Greenhouse Gas Emissions Predicted To Fall Nearly 8% – Largest Decrease Ever. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/30/848307092/greenhouse-gas-emissions-predicted-to-fall-nearly-8-largest-decrease-ever

Will Covid-19 have a lasting impact on the environment? (2020, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment

Implications of the EU-Turkey deal

by Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

In March 2016 the European Union made a deal with Turkey to stop the immense flow of refugees and to secure Europe’s external borders. In this article I would like to focus on the deal’s implications for Turkey, the EU and the relationship between both parties. 

For Turkey, the deal offers several incentives. In terms of financial help, Turkey receives a six-billion-dollar aid package, from which 3,2 billion euro have already been transferred (Engel, 2020). The money flows into local humanitarian aid organizations and more than hundred projects (Engel, 2020). Furthermore, Turkey benefits from visa-liberalizations for Turkish citizens for the Schengen-Area and from a resumption of EU-membership negotiations (Heck and Hess, p. 45). Ankara thus profits financially as well as strategically from this deal. However, due to human rights violations and anti-democratic developments, “Turkey’s membership perspective is no longer tenable“ and Turkey is rather seen as a “major strategic ally“ (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.170). 

In order to maintain the deal, the EU was forced to make normative concessions (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.169). The is EU largely dependent on Turkey’s compliance with the deal to protect EU external borders and prevent illegal immigration. Turkey’s bargaining power is thus unprecedented (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.175). In the last years, Turkey disregarded core democratic values and violated Human rights. However, the EU made significant normative and political concessions in order to manage the crisis. The deal is thus at the cost core democratic principles (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.177).

The relation between the EU and Turkey deteriorated significantly lately. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has the impression that Turkey is not sufficiently supported by the European Union and thus threatened the EU by opening its borders (Braun, et al., 2020). Moreover, he claims that the EU does not comply with the deal (Kirchner, 2020). In terms of the EU’s compliance, one can say that the European Union did not comply with all the agreements, but at least, the required money has been transferred (Kirchner, 2020). Therefore, Erdoğan actually cannot claim that the EU does not financially supports Turkey.

In conclusion, the European Union made not only financial, but also normative concessions in order to maintain the deal. Erdoğan’s claims that the EU does not comply with the agreements of the deal are only partly correct, but not in financial terms as the EU paid its agreed part.

Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash

References

Braun, S., Bullion, C. von, Fried, N., Herrmann, B., Szymanski, M., & Balser, M. (2020, March 3). Wie Berlin über die Lage an der griechisch-türkischen Grenze denkt. Retrieved from https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/fluechtlinge-erdogan-bundesregierung-1.4827988

Engel, G. (2020, March 5). EU-Türkei-Abkommen: Wer hat den Flüchtlingsdeal gebrochen? Retrieved from https://www.tagesschau.de/faktenfinder/eu-tuerkei-fluechtlingsabkommen-109.html

Heck, G., & Hess, S. (2017). Tracing the Effects of the EU-Turkey Deal. The Momentum of the Multi-layered Turkish Border Regime. Retrieved from https://movements-journal.org/issues/05.turkey/04.heck,hess–tracing-the-effects-of-the-eu-turkey-deal.html

Kirchner, T. (2020, March 6). Flüchtlinge: Tückischer Deal zwischen EU und Türkei. Retrieved from https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/tuerkei-deal-eu-1.4829688

Saatçioğlu, B. (2020). The European Union’s refugee crisis and rising functionalism in EU-Turkey relations. Turkish Studies, 21(2), 169-187.

The EU and Coronabonds – What comes after the pandemic?

by Lea Schiller

The COVID-19 pandemic has left the European Union a region that is not only hit differently by the virus, but also dealing with diverse economic outlooks. Some countries went into a strict shutdown for months and others started relaxing their measures after just a few weeks. Bound together in the European Union, these countries now have to find a way to keep the region from spiralling into a recession – and provide financial support for the states hardest hit.

In early April, after three days of difficult negotiations, the Council of Ministers decided on a €540 billion relief package – but this is far from where the story ends. For one, experts are suggesting the EU might need another €500 billion to mitigate the effects of the shutdowns. And for another, not all member states are happy with the initial package.

“Italy doesn’t need the ESM,” was Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s comment on the decision, effectively refusing €39 billion in aid. Next to support for installing short-time work and loans from the European Investment Bank, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was decided to be the third part of the EU’s relief package. First installed in 2012, its purpose is to support member states who are highly in debt – but its money is bound to strict conditions. Italy’s Five-Star Movement had threatened to end the coalition government should Conte say yes to the ESM – out of fear the country would be put under similar controls as Greece was during the debt crisis. Regardless of the fact that the EU had abandoned all conditions that are usually bound to the ESM out of respect for Italy’s difficult situation, and against initial resistance from the Netherlands.

But Italy is not the only country that wants to move away from the ESM, and install the so-called Coronabonds instead. Next to Italy, France has also expressed their support, with Macron telling the British media that they were “necessary” as otherwise eurosceptic populists in Italy, France and elsewhere would win. Their support has been met with heavy resistance from the northern countries, particularly the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Finland, which sparked a debate that Conte warned could threaten the existence of the bloc.

“Coronabonds” are essentially the new application of an old idea: joint debt that would be collectively guaranteed.  Which would, as countries like Italy are hoping, lead to lower borrowing costs and more favourable terms. But on the other side, the northern countries are hesitating to sign loans for countries whose spending they cannot control – fearing it will lead to their taxpayers paying the bill; with neither side ready to give, which way the EU will go is still uncertain. And during the summit on the 23rd of April, the European Council passed the initial relief package that was put forward by the EU’s finance ministers – putting the topic of a recovery fund in the form of Coronabonds off for another day.

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

References

Investigate Europa (2020, March 23). Widersprüchlicher Umgang mit dem Virus: Wie die EU in der Coronakrise versagt. Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved from https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/widerspruechlicher-umgang-mit-dem-virus-wie-die-eu-in-der-coronakrise-versagt/25672594.html

Brenton, H. (2020, April 19). EU needs extra 500 billion for recovery, says eurozone bailout fund chief. Politico. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/19/eu-needs-extra-500-billion-for-recovery-says-eurozone-bailout-fund-chief-193916

Coronavirus-Hilfen: Italien sagt Nein zu 39 Milliarden der EU. (2020, April 14). Tagesschau. Retrieved from https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/eu-hilfen-italien-101.html

Koch, M. (2020, April 17). Coronabonds: Macron und EU-Parlament erhöhen Druck auf Deutschland. Handelsblatt. Retrieved from https://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/international/zukunft-der-eu-coronabonds-macron-und-eu-parlament-erhoehen-druck-auf-deutschland/25750610.html?ticket=ST-2597453-zTa61Sigy5yOf43fle6W-ap1

Boffey, D. (2020, April 9). EU strikes €500bn relief deal for countries hit hardest by pandemic. The Guardian. Retrieved fromhttps://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/09/eu-risks-break-up-over-coronabonds-row-warns-italian-pm

Einigung der EU-Finanzminster: 500 Milliarden gegen die Corona-Krise. (2020, April 10). Tagesschau. Retrieved from https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/eu-finanzhilfen-103.html

Football in Spain: Just a Game?

By André Francischetti Moreno

When one thinks of Spain, it is hard not to recall La Liga, or at least, its two major teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. As Pele for Brazil and Maradona for Argentina, there is a strong relationship between the image of the Iberic country and football. It is not a coincidence that my friends and I got our first contact with a myriad of countries by fulfilling FIFA´s 2010 World Cup album, which was won by Spain. Since 2010, Spanish teams won an incredible six out of nine editions of the Champions League, and today people from all over the world save the date to watch El Classico, the most-watched club game in global football, played by Real and Barça. In Spain, the football industry goes far beyond the pitch, encompassing an astronomical amount of money, cultural identity and social responsibility.

According to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), the professional football industry generated approximately 15,7 billion euro in economic activity and 4,1 billion euro in taxes in Spain during the 2016/2017 season. Furthermore, 184,626 jobs were generated, and the industry represented 1.37% of the country´s GDP. Another report from PwC demonstrated that in all regions, except for one, the contribution was over 1% of the GDP. In Barcelona the numbers are outstanding as one can see by visiting the Espai, which is the FC Barcelona sports complex and the greatest of its kind in Europe. In fact, Barça´s museum is the third most visited in Spain, and Nike´s megastore has the highest revenues per square meter on earth. In addition, FC Barcelona is responsible for 6% of the tourism market of the fifth most visited city in Europe and generates 1.7 million overnight stays according to Deloitte. 

Due to TV contracts (keep in mind that only four countries do not transmit La Liga games), marketing, and a massive global communication capacity, Spanish teams can produce impacts on a planetary scale. In terms of operating revenues, Real and Barcelona lead among all sports teams on the planet, and alone are responsible for 1.20 out of 1,000 euro produced in Spain. The Blaugrana team overtook Real in Deloitte´s money league 2018/2019, and is the richest club in the world, reaching 837 million euro against 757 of its rival. Moreover, six out of the 10 most expensive transactions of the sport´s history were made by one of the two, including the most expensive one, the Brazilian player Neymar Jr., who was sold to Paris Saint-German for 222 million euro, surpassing the price of many great European companies i.e, the Dutch IT group Getronics (220 M).  

In despite of the high revenues coming from the stadiums, on the 1st of October of 2017 Barcelona decided to play against Las Palmas behind closed doors in protest to the violent repression of the Spanish police to prevent the Catalonia´s independence referendum. As it says in its motto, written in Catalan, FC Barcelona is more than a club, being a resistance symbol of the region. Catalonian flags are waved at Camp Nou, fans sing cheerful or protest chants in Catalan, Barcelona jerseys now and then are stamped with the Catalonian flag, and the national feeling is amplified when the match is against Real Madrid, which represents the crown and the Spanish identity. 

Having in mind their relevance, the Catalans and Merengues are involved in a series of technological and social initiatives. Barcelona supports start-ups, is engaged in partnerships with universities and co-develops several products, which are tested on what is deemed by Josep Maria Bartomeu as the greatest human lab in the world: 2,500 men and women athletes from 8 to 30 years. Furthermore, the hub of 16 staff is partnering in about 40 studies of muscle and tendon injuries and developed Pol, a new robot that helps sick people to visit places by controlling it from their hospital beds. The team joins technological progress with social responsibility. Real Madrid, in turn, effects its social commitment through the creation of adapted and inclusive social sports schools, supports charity initiatives and triggered the final boost that Spanish women´s football needed to fulfill its potential by purchasing Club Deportivo Tacón as Real Madrid´s official women´s team. According to Xavi Bové, sports marketing consultant, Real will attract global and local sponsors and awareness over the category. Over the past 15 years, the number of women playing football more than quadruplicated in Spain and mixed teams from very young age became frequent. 

As one can see, it may seem so at first sight, but football is much more than just a game. In the case of Spain, it involves matters that range from economic impact to the national identity of a region, to social engagement and public awareness. The football industry can connect fans, companies and players worldwide, and is an active agent who can and should work for society. Regarding the financial impact of the game on the Spanish economy Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, said “ this reinforces our message about the importance of taking responsible and well considered decisions over everything that could affect this industry, one that is so relevant for our society.” After all this data, I finally discovered what to do during this quarantine: training my football skills at home.

Photo by Vienna Reyes on Unsplash

References

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thelocal.es/20170524/la-liga-brings-boost-to-spanish-economy

Kuper, S. (2019, March 1). How FC Barcelona are preparing for the future of football. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/908752aa-3a1b-11e9-b72b-2c7f526ca5d0

Longman, J. (2019, June 23). For Spain, Investment Pays Off at the World Cup. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/23/sports/womens-world-cup-spain.html

Most expensive transfers of all-time: Neymar, Mbappe, Pogba, Ronaldo and more. (2018, July 10). Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog/soccer-transfers/3/post/2915603/most-expensive-transfers-of-all-time-neymar-mbappe-pogba-ronaldo-and-more

Norman, B. (2019, August 15). La Liga returns – with a turnover of nearly €16bn for the Spanish economy. Retrieved from https://www.spainenglish.com/2019/08/15/la-liga-turnover-spanish-economy/

Public Funding of Spanish professional football clubs: a game worth playing? (2019, July 30). Retrieved from https://www.sports.legal/2019/03/public-funding-of-spanish-professional-football-clubs-a-game-worth-playing/

Redirect Notice. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fcbarcelona.com/en/news/708145/what-is-espai-barca/amp

Revealed: Football’s economic impact stretches across all parts of Spain. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://newsletter.laliga.es/global-futbol/football-economic-impact-spain-communities

Soccer as a key factor in shaping a unified European identity. (2016, February 24). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160224070639.htm

Soccer as a key factor in shaping a unified European identity. (2016, February 24). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160224070639.htm

The Economic Impact of El Clasico. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sbibarcelona.com/newsdetails/index/321

World Football Summit. (2019, August 1). WFS responds: This is how Real Madrid’s entry will impact women’s football worldwide. Retrieved from https://worldfootballsummit.com/wfs-responds-this-is-how-real-madrids-entry-can-impact-womens-football-worldwide/

Hungary and the EU: A conversation with the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade

By Lea Schiller

On the 1st of May 2004, Hungary was one of ten eastern European countries to join the European Union (EU) as part of the biggest enlargement to date. Since then, political and economic changes have shifted Hungary’s relationship with the EU – from an applicant in the process of consolidating its democracy, to a country in the middle of some of Europe’s most challenging conflicts. As a leading Hungarian foreign policy think-tank, The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) not only carries out research in all fields of Hungarian foreign policy, but also publishes its own foreign policy journal and organises conferences and workshops.

In an interview, Dr. Attila Kovács, a Senior Research Fellow at the institute, describes the work of the institute as well as his own judgements on the current position of Hungary in the European Union.

What does your day-to-day work look like?

The work is flexible, so I am not in the office every day. Sometimes I have meetings with representatives of other think-tanks, or I go to the ministries. But normally we are writing; for example, we follow the daily news from other countries. I could also talk to the media about once a week on average. Especially when there is a political situation, for example a plenary week of the European Parliament, then it’s very common that I will get calls to give my expectations on what’s going to happen. But in the very end, we are measured based on the written outcome of our work.

So would you say written reports are the biggest part of your work?

To me personally, yes. Sometimes these are not for the external audience, but for inside: for the ministry; for decision makers. I haven’t organised that many events yet, but many of my colleagues are concentrating on increasing the visibility of the institute via organising lots of events. Another thing is that when there is a foreign delegation coming to Hungary, we regularly meet with them. Top-level diplomats are going to the ministry, but at the expert-level, they come to the institute, where we have workshops or talks with them. It can be just an exchange of views, or we establish some relationships with them.

I read about the round-table on minority affairs in the European Parliament that was organised by the IFAT.  The report mentioned that Hungary’s involvement in minority affairs in Europe is due to the fact that they are also at the centre of Hungarian domestic politics. Could you explain why that is the case?

It comes from one hundred years ago exactly. This year in June a hundred years ago, two-thirds of the previous territory of Hungary were detached from the country and given to neighbouring countries. […] Five million Hungarians were put outside of the country’s borders. Historically, it was one country with a similar population, and that’s a historical wound in Hungary. It’s still a living wound, and many Hungarians consider this as a very unjust outcome of the First World War. This is the root of the situation. Since then – depending of course on the ideological orientation of the government – we have been paying special attention to Hungarians living outside of the official borders of Hungary. Most of them live in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and a small part in Ukraine, which is very sensitive nowadays because of the Ukraine-Russia relations. But apart from that, there is a specialised group in the European Parliament dealing with the traditional minorities in Europe, for example the Catalans in Spain. But with these issues, there is a high level of political sensibility; there are independence movements, autonomy movements and many other, so you need to be very delicate when you approach these things. That was the root of the event. And I can see that Hungarian politicians – no matter what political side they are – are paying attention to these situations frequently.

How do you see Hungary’s position in the new European Commission under Von der Leyen?

There is a debate in Hungary, but also in Central Eastern European countries including Poland and the Czech Republic, that after sixteen years of the EU enlargement – so after sixteen years of EU membership since 2004 – there is not a double standard within the European Union, for example regarding the allocation of positions and the level on influence that countries have. Many believe that the allocation is still biased in favour of the old member states, and we are not represented based on the population. To answer your question, in this new Commission, Hungary got a good portfolio, which is Enlargement and Neighbouring Issues. I think so far this is the most important position that we have had in the European Commission. Previously, we had things like Youth Issues and Sports, which is not as important. For many young students, things like Erasmus are impactful, but politically speaking, Enlargement is much more important.

What do you see as Hungary’s long term goals for European Integration?

Hungary could be – and this is why the Enlargement and Neighbourhood portfolio is important – a bridge to Russia, and to Turkey. Orban has good relationships with Putin and with Erdogan. We need to maintain good relationships with Turkey and Russia. I think this could be a special role for Hungary in the European Union, to be an intermediary. Economically speaking, based on logistics, but also politically speaking, Hungary can be an intermediary; a bridge between the European Union and Russia and Turkey. And another thing is the Balkan countries, which we are neighbouring with, and that have a very special set of power relations. For example, the last war in Europe was in the Balkans, and the Balkans are one of the main sources of migration in Europe, which is also a sensitive issue. And again, Hungary is at the crossroads.

What is the position of the current Hungarian government towards the European Union? Under the current government, Hungary’s position is very critical, but it is not critical towards the European Union itself, but more towards the leadership – or the lack of leadership – regarding the European Union. […] For example, if you take a look at the current coronavirus situation, we didn’t see bold decisions like we see them now from the previous European Commission, while Von der Leyen immediately disclosed huge funds to handle the economic consequences of the virus. So what Hungary had a problem with was the lack of leadership. The second thing is more of an ideological approach. The current Hungarian government believes that the European Union should be about economic integration, not necessarily a political or cultural type of melting pot but economic cooperation of nation states. And this is a huge, fundamental debate; whether we should one day be the United States of Europe or a loose cooperation of nation states. Hungary represents that states still need to have significant powers in the European Union, and that can be a conflict. I can also tell you that Hungary has never been as important as it is today and in the last fifteen years. No matter what you think of Orban’s policies, everyone agrees that he has put Hungary on the map of Europe. Before that, it was a country no one really cared about, but now Orban became a reference point. Be it in a good sense or a bad sense – that’s a matter of personal interpretation – but Hungary counts today.

Photo by Matthew Waring on Unsplash

References

European Union (n.d.). EU member countries in brief: Hungary. Retrieved from: https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/countries/member-countries/hungary_en

Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (n.d.). About the Institute. Retrieved from: https://kki.hu/en/about-the-institute/

Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (n.d.). Hungarian national interest in Europe: minority affairs in the European Parliament. Retrieved from: https://kki.hu/en/hungarian-national-interest-in-europe-minority-affairs-in-the-european-parliament/