• Kester Eddy

In their own Words - Márton Gyöngyösi, on the Opposition Alliance, OSCE, & Hungary joining the Euro

Márton Gyöngyösi, Jobbik's sole MEP, held a press conference last Friday, in which he outlined his views on why/how the opposition alliance was formed, it's plans to fight the forthcoming general election on 3rd April, and Hungary joining the common currency.

Photo: the top of Márton Gyöngyösi's page on the European Parliament's website - https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/198063/MARTON_GYONGYOSI/home


Note: Jobbik is a former radical, nationalist far right party which now places itself as a centre-right, democratic "peoples' party".


Márton Gyöngyösi: Introduction, press conference on Friday, 4th February

We have never had a situation in Hungary before whereby political parties of all sorts and ideological backgrounds gather and join forces on a democratic ticket. We are not trying to pretend - I know many politicians say many things about policies, and we are putting together our programme, and we are trying to refine it as much as possible.


In the next couple of weeks, we are going to present it to the wider public, but, in all honesty, these are political parties which think very differently about many, many things.

We are not trying to pretend that we agree on everything, we are not trying to pretend that in all policies we have a common front without any debates or different priorities.


But what we do all agree on, and this is what has brought us on the same platform and what has led to joining forces and building an alliance and going through this process of primary [elections, held in September-October] is basically the realisation that Hungary is not a democratic country anymore, because if it was, then these individual political parties, in a free and fair competition, could pose some kind of challenge to the governing party, Fidesz.


Now, this was not the case. In 2018, my party was preparing for victory and for governing at the time under the leadership of Gábor Vona, and it took us – this is just my personal account and recollection of the state of affairs four years ago - we had great illusions that it would be possible to have single candidates in [all] 106 constituencies, a party list, a programme, conferences, discussions where we could present the programme and we could challenge the government and win the elections. Now it turned out that in the 2018 elections, that it was not possible.


Things have turned worse since 2019. Just after the elections, if you recall, from the remaining independent media, a whole lot have shut down … and basically the media situation has deteriorated. Also some changes to the electoral law and constitution have strengthened the grip of the government on institutions, on the electoral process, and it was very evident at the very beginning of the new cycle that it would be impossible for any opposition party to pose some kind of challenge to the government in a stand-alone election campaign. ...

Question: Diplomatic corps: what are the issues that compromised on in your coaltion [negotiations]


Márton Gyöngyösi: The easy bit was the new constitution, restoring Hungary to democracy in general. That is the basic concept that the whole programme is built upon.

The foreign affairs chapter was not actually that difficult: we agree on where we stand compared to the rest of the world, and where we stand compared to Viktor Orban. So, there were more nuances which politicians love to debate, but they were not huge issues.


Like the question of the euro, politicians … in the foreign policy chapter, that was the biggest conflict. Our partners, the Democratic Coalition (DK), Momentum, LMP less, the Socialists less, but Momentum and DK, they are for introducing the euro instantaneously. And the same for Péter Márki-Zay, [the common prime ministerial candidate for the opposition alliance], introducing the euro is like a magic solution to many economic problems.


As an economist, I'm more sceptical. I'm in favour of the euro, but only after the country is prepared for it. I think there are very important prerequisites for joining the euro, fiscal stability, monetary policy, debt rates.


I don't want Hungary to be like Greece, which joins the eurozone, we celebrate it with Champagne, ... <tut tut, Márton, this is the trouble with those infamously lavish MEP's expense claims - for a Magyar, you mean pezsgő, surely? Ed> ... we are happy, and then we realise our economy structurally is not prepared for letting go of monetary policy, which is a very important instrument in my understanding in conducting economic policy.


You can release it, and you can hand it over to a board when you are structurally prepared for it. I think our task is – and this is where we managed to strike a compromise - I think it's phrased in a very clever way, saying that when Hungary is prepared for it, we will very quickly introduce it, I think that's the phrasing, so everybody's happy.


So, it is understood now that there are prerequisites and conditions to be fulfilled for Hungary to join the euro, and it is not some kind of magic solution to all our problems, introducing the euro.


That was the only big clash we had.


The other one was, when it comes to Russia, China, Turkey and the liberal world, we had some differences in emphasis and language. There are people who are very outspoken when it comes to China or when it comes to countries that are [potentially] very overwhelming, either in economic, military or political terms.


I think a small country like mine is much wiser if it's not very militant in its language. I'm more in favour of clear, but diplomatic positions.


Question – Kester Eddy: You'd like a full OSCE [Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe] observation mission to come here to monitor the elections. But will it actually matter on the ground? And have not Fidesz already got round this [voter fraud] problem by having the law changed that it's no longer a criminal offence to register yourself somewhere where you are not really living?


M Gy: The idea behind having the OSCE sending a full observation team, and not a partial one, which basically means that they just rubber stamp the election without observing it, because, that's what happens … on the day of election …


A full-scale observation team means that they arrive in the country one month before the elections, they make in-depth interviews with the people who are conducting the elections, and they give a full-scale report with independent observations, which is a very powerful tool in deterring election fraud by parties, and by Fidesz in the particular case, and … I mean, it's a message to the outside world: we are watching and observing, and here are our findings and observations.

...

It is a very important message if OSCE comes here, conducts a full election observation mission and issues a report which is detailed and which is based on it's own personal findings and not rumours or articles that some people read on the basis of what they heard on the street.


It is a fact-finding institution, and that has a very clear message both to Fidesz and the outside world, and it would give a great reassurance for the opposition parties that there is somebody else here guarding democratic norms in the country.



<Editorial note – this was spoken before the OSCE announced that it was in favour of sending a full observation mission last Friday to monitor the election on April 3, a highly unusual move for a member country of the European Union.>

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