Barely six months after the formal exit of the UK from the EU, the prospect of another country exiting has surfaced. Except this time it comes in a different form.
Last night, at the EU leaders summit in Brussels, Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime minister accused the Hungarian leader, Victor Orban, leader of that country’s Fidesz political party of trampling on EU values and in particular, criminalizing those that are not, in the views of Mr. Orban, ‘of traditional Christian values’. In other words, under the leadership of Mr. Orban, being gay will be extremely difficult in Hungary.
The entry of Hungary into the EU was probably premature. While their entry was, at the time heralded as a major step towards a democracy, the trauma of living under the grip of the Communist Soviet Union meant that many failed to ask what joining the EU would really mean. At the time, many Eastern European leaders simply wanted to belong to something that was NOT the Soviet Union.
Proud nations such as Hungary and Poland got their first taste of political, social, economic freedom after the fall of the so-called Iron Curtain in 1989. That independence meant they were no longer subservient or answerable to their political and economic masters in Moscow. However, within a decade, they were volunteering to waive some of that independence by joining the EU and agreeing to pool their sovereignty. For some, perhaps out of a sense of nostalgia or perhaps also, out of a sense of greed, the pooling of sovereignty has now become inconvenient.
In both Hungary and Poland and also, some of the other post-Soviet republics of Eastern Europe, there is a growing sense of rebellion against the EU and its values. The existence of the Visegard Group of Eastern European countries acts as a de-facto anti-EU pressure group with the general goal of blocking the EU from ‘abandoning its Christian heritage’.
What is emerging in some Eastern European countries today is a form of reversion to the political structures of the Communist era. For some leaders, it seems that the idea of the ‘strongman’ style of leadership, the central figure that ‘knows best’ is the only way to go. For them, it would appear that the more complex and sometimes cumbersome styles of Government that emerge in more ‘liberal’ western nations are far too messy for them to bother dealing with. However, what those ‘strongman’ orientated leaders themselves fail to grasp is that inclusion is the seed to strength and also, sustainable prosperity.
Denial of basic human rights is not a sign of strength; it is a sign of weakness. It is now being used as a stepping stone to a form of Government that serves few and penalises many in some eastern EU countries today!
So, when Mark Rutte speaks out against the actions of Mr. Orban and his Fidesz political cronies, he speaks for many people across the EU. When he asks why Hungary (and by extension; Poland) does not just leave the EU, he asks a question that will have crossed the minds of many people. By speaking up and challenging Victor Orban directly, he defends the values of humanity and tolerance!