THERE WERE NEVER IN THE WORLD TWO OPINIONS ALIKE

The Australian-Hungarian Synergy on Border Protection
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The Australian-Hungarian Synergy on Border Protection

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The Australian-Hungarian Synergy on Border Protection

Since his election in 2010, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has come under severe international scrutiny. This in a large part reflects an ignorance of the political climate in Hungary.

Like former Prime Minister Abbott, Orbán studied in Oxford. In 1988, as a young man who grew up in a Hungary occupied by the communists, Orbán was a founding member of the political party which he now presides over as leader, Fidesz. Quadrant Editor, John O’Sullivan, suggests Orbán’s life under communism has shaped much of his policy today. In his recent book ‘The Second Term of Viktor Orbán: Beyond Prejudice and Enthusiasm’, he notes that living through communism “bred in him a fierce visceral rejection of Communism that has infused his politics until today. He believes that the political Left in Hungary is the heir of the Communist party—indeed, often not the heir but the paterfamilias himself in light democratic disguise—and that it is therefore not a fully legitimate democratic party. Many things flow from that conviction”.

His critics have not had this lived experience, contributing significantly to their misunderstanding of Orbán. Many have commented on Orbán’s leadership as an authoritarian one, a dictatorship, but as O’Sullivan rightly points out, “this is empty, ideological language”. Orbán’s Party sits on the centre-right in the political landscape in Hungary, nestled between the far right (Jobbik) and far left (Hungarian Socialist Party). The party in coalition hold an impressive two-thirds majority in the parliament and are undertaking significant reform in the transitioning economy. Fidesz is regarded as a broad conservative party occupying the same space as the Liberal Party of Australia, voicing the concerns of its membership toward issues such as immigration and Hungary’s relationship with the European Union.  This parallel has been most vividly realised recently, with former Prime Minister Abbott and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán being in lockstep on the importance of controlled immigration to national sovereignty. Rather than ‘stopping the boats’, Orbán has literally built a wall.

Hungarian history must also be considered prior to reflecting on Orbán’s recent actions. Genghis Khan’s unstoppable advance from the steppes of Asia, the long strides of the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire, and the violent incursion of communism from the east all loom large in the political memory of Hungarians. But now, like Australia and much of the Western world, Hungary faces the challenge of illegal migration. Considering the troubles of his ancestors, Orbán’s sensitivity toward Hungarian sovereignty is to be expected.

In an interview with Mon Droit, the Hungarian Ambassador to Australia, Dr Attila Gruber noted the similarities between Australia and Hungary in terms of border protection policy. From the outset, he highlighted that to Orbán, “defending our sovereign borders” was an “obligation” not a choice. He said that like Australia, “it is very important that we send a clear message toward the migrants trying to reach our countries”. Much like Prime Minister Abbott’s signature Operation Sovereign Borders, Dr Gruber points out that Hungary under Orbán has “said ‘stop’ on the border”.

Although unlike Australia, countries in Europe such as Hungary are landlocked and reliant on cooperation in the train-wreck that is the European Union, thus convoluting the border protection process. Viktor Orbán has defied the ‘moral imperialism’ of Angela Merkel, compelling Europe to finally start seeing sense on this matter. As Dr Gruber points out, Hungary has experience in this field, as “all throughout history we’ve had to work with refugees”. The Ambassador rightly claims that “Europe was blind. Blind from their ideals, from the solely humanitarian ideals. Prime Minister Orbán said from the beginning, that this is not a humanitarian question”.

The history of Hungary is one of endurance. Because of its history, Hungary is suspicious of the mass movement of any peoples. Viktor Orbán’s policy reflects that caution. In summing up our interview, Dr Gruber quipped that “now history is back”. Orbán has led Europe by example, and the trend of ‘Orbánism’ has been in recent elections such as those as Poland. Orbán clearly presents a compelling case against the orthodoxy within the European Union.

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