Monday, April 07, 2003
The Hungarian Referendum - 7th April 2003, 20.13

The referendum on Hungary joining the European Union will take place on April 12th against a background of indifference and apathy. Like Slovenia, most Hungarians wish to join the European Union (the latest poll indicates 60%) and their support has been reinforced by the efforts of their government.

Last November, the government set up the European Union Communication Foundation (EUKK) to increase awareness about the EU. The foundation, however, has come under fire for its initial strategy of focusing on catchy issues, such as whether Hungarians after accession would still be allowed to make their traditional poppy-seed pastry or whether they can continue to feed pigs leftovers. Many said these ads failed to convey the significance of accession or answer people’s most pressing concerns.

Lately, the foundation has sought to put the emphasis on symbolism. Over a recent weekend, hundreds of thousands turned out to cross a pontoon bridge over the Danube, set up to symbolize the nation’s passage to the EU. One of Budapest’s yellow trams was also painted a dark blue and dubbed the ‘EU tram.’

Nevertheless, even the contestants of Big Brother 2 will be allowed out to vote. With efforts like these, Hungarians may be disillusioned with the failure of their political classes to enter a full debate about the pros and cons of the accession vote. However, the naivety of the intellectual classes towards the EU is self-evident, and it appears that the country will be voluntarily entering the European Re-Education Camp that we joined in 1973.

Gábor Makk, a computer scientist, said all the talk about communication and political maneuverings only serves to distract attention from the central point: that Hungary can only go one way, towards the EU.
“We cannot isolate ourselves by becoming an island in Europe and rejecting the EU,” Makk said. “We live here, after all.”
The historian Balogh agreed, saying that in contrast to the influence the Soviet Union exercised over Hungary for 40 years, the EU can give a basis for Hungary’s future prosperity.
“There will be no handouts, only hard work,” he said. “But in the EU it will pay off to work hard.”

Here, one can hear the Whiggish arguments of inevitability that form the thin foundation of our own Europhiles accompanied by an inconceivable ignorance of the pork that the EU distributes to so many constituencies in order to ensure that all are beholden to its fiscal and political sway.


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