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Argument: In Hungary, Social Conservatism and Authoritarianism Aren’t the Same In Hungary, Social Conservatism and Author...
Here’s a plea from the right: We should all stop helping budding authoritarians by conflating cultural liberalism with democracy. There’s a difference, after all, between a conservative vision for society and autocracy. And if we treat them as the same thing, it only shrinks the coalition of those willing to resist authoritarianism. Nowhere is this clearer than in Europe, where the European Parliament is debating a new report and a draft resolution on the rule of law in Hungary. It was compiled by Judith Sargentini, a Dutch parliamentarian from the GreenLeft party.
Instead of limiting itself to a detached, value-neutral assessment of the gradual erosion of checks and balances in Hungary, attacks on the country’s free media and judiciary, and rampant cronyism in which European Union-funded government contracts have made oligarchs connected to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party, Fidesz, astronomically rich—all of which are very real and very concerning—the report mixes in several sections on social issues. Hungary’s electoral system, which essentially guarantees a two-thirds majority in parliament for Fidesz, is covered but in just a few bullet points. The report could have also spent pages more on the corruption that has surrounded the use of EU funds that Hungary receives; a two-year investigation by the EU’s anti-corruption agency, OLAF, found irregularities in 35 projects in Hungary between 2011 and 2015. On all of those fronts, valid criticism should be and is addressed at Orban, cutting across partisan and ideological lines.
But the report’s author also attacks Orban on an issue for which he has overwhelming domestic support: the country’s draconian immigration and asylum policies. Criticism is directed at the country’s July 2015 decree “designating Serbia as a ‘safe third country’” to which Hungary can turn back asylum-seekers as if that decree were materially different from the deal struck between the EU and the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, which traps Syrian asylum-seekers in Turkey. Indeed, it isn’t that different from the overall approach adopted by the European Council in June this year.
And there is more. Hungary has not complied, the report states, with an EU directive that requires employers “to adapt working conditions for pregnant or breastfeeding workers.” Worse yet, its “constitutional ban on discrimination does not explicitly list sexual orientation and gender identity” and “its restrictive definition of family could give rise to discrimination as it does not encompass certain types of family arrangements, including same-sex couples.” At times, the document reads as if written by one of Hungary’s own left-wing opposition parties: “[M]easures taken to reduce the maternal mortality have been insufficient,” “minimum amount of old-age pensions is inadequate,” “maximum duration of payment of jobseeker’s allowance is too short,” “minimum amount of rehabilitation and invalidity benefits, in certain cases, is inadequate,” and “it has not been established that there is an adequate supply of housing for vulnerable families.”
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