In an interview with the Hungarian daily Magyar Idők, MEP András Gyürk says that Europe is facing a deep crisis and liberal dogmas have failed. The head of the Fidesz Delegation to the European Parliament said that times are changing in Europe and the pressure of political correctness is easing. Hungary’s experience and practices may be significant when the new direction is defined.
The following is an English-language version of the interview. The original Hungarian-language interview is available here.
Magyar Idők:Over the past year, we have seen events of historical significance in Europe. Where is the continent heading?
András Gyürk: What we see on the surface are the migrant crisis and economic recession, which have not yet ended. However, it is actually a system that has been in existence since the Second World War that faces a crisis. The Europe that we are currently living in was built on two fundamental promises: welfare and peace, and this structure was obviously based on the continent’s Christian traditions. As Robert Schuman, a Christian Democrat and one of the founding fathers of the European Community, stated, “Europe will be either Christian or it will not be.” However, since the sixties, Europe has been held captive to liberal thinking and dogmas, and thus the foundation of the “European house” has weakened. Now, when these two promises seem to be overturned, i.e. our welfare is challenged by recession and our safety and peace are undermined by the migrant crisis, the whole construction is creaking and lacks a strong foundation. This is the situation in which we find ourselves today. Behind the crises we see on the surface, there is a more serious problem: Europe’s identity crisis.
Is this the reason that more and more governments have come to power that oppose austerity measures?
People are fed up with outdated solutions. They do not believe that austerity measures will resolve the recession or that granting unlimited entry will resolve the migrant crisis. The examples of Greece, Portugal, Poland and France demonstrate that the old elite are having difficulties reaching out to voters. More and more citizens across Europe think that political leaders have forgotten them. Awaiting new solutions, they are bringing new political forces to power. The years ahead are likely to be about which political powers will be able to understand the voice of democracy.
What might Hungary’s role be in this process?
In my opinion, Hungary may be a driving force of change, since we are ahead of Europe in many regards. In the past decade, a very important democratic shift has taken place in Hungary. For instance, the attitude toward national identity has dramatically changed. Since the referendum on dual citizenship [in 2004], even the political left came to understand that our responsibility to Hungarians living outside the borders of Hungary is inevitable. As opposed to public opinion some years ago, we now think differently about demographic trends and support for families, which are some of the greatest challenges in Hungary today. We have broken ties with liberal dogmas and common sense is gaining more ground. This is a victory of democracy, as all of these changes occurred with the support of a broad circle of voters. Consider the national consultations, launched on numerous subjects, in which we asked the opinions of millions of citizens and their replies were integrated into our daily lives in the form of legislation. We may be the driving force of change in Europe because our experience could be essential for a Europe facing the challenges previously mentioned. Winds are changing and the pressure to be politically correct is easing. Debates have manifested about subjects that had been regarded as taboo in years past. The visceral reaction is, of course, denial, but our arguments attract more and more interest and their acceptance is growing in the corridors of the European Parliament. This is among the reasons why Politico selected Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as man of the year. It is becoming more widely accepted that the migrant crisis is grave enough to merit a second look at the only person who saw the problem and offered solutions that actually seem to work.
There are many scenarios in response to the crisis, for example, the creation of a “mini-Schengen” as proposed by European leaders. Will regional cooperation strengthen in a changing Europe?
In this gloomy situation, cooperation between the Visegrad countries provides a ray of hope. The fact that together with the Czechs, Slovaks and Polish we were able to protect Hungary’s southern border is a gesture going far beyond mere actions. It clearly shows that we are capable of overcoming historical restraints within the region. Problems trigger the best reactions from these countries, like solidarity, unity and cooperation. This is exemplary for Europe and, thus, we can be the driving force of change. Efforts made to protect our common border, as well as the Schengen border, which is one of the most important EU acquis, is an example of authentic cooperation. There are, of course, also bad examples of regional cooperation in other parts of Europe, when certain states coordinate their policies out of pettiness in order to exclude others.
Does this mean that you continue to believe in a united Europe?
Yes, I believe in a Europe of nations, since Hungary is interested in a strong Europe. With regard to economic performance and intellectual capital, this continent has one of the strongest potentials in the world. However, the political elite and political system are weak assets. We need a Europe that is able to enforce its interests in the world. Common responses are necessary, with the help of which we can provide real protection against migration. We should also consider how Europe can become stronger from a military point of view. At the moment, the continent cannot defend its citizens. Our wealth is coupled with weakness.
Even if we protect our borders, a great number of immigrants have already entered Europe. What solutions can you see regarding integration?
I am not optimistic because Europe’s migration policy failed well before the present wave of migration reached the continent’s borders. The case of guest workers coming to Europe in the fifties and sixties showed that the European “solution” to the issue, that is, a system of multiculturalism and secularism, is a failure. Parallel societies came into being and terrorism budded from their soil. Brussels, the capital of the European Union, is a clear example, as it has become the capital of terrorism. It did not happen by chance, but as the result of a deliberate political strategy. The city’s leftist, liberal leaders were of the opinion, on one hand, that multiculturalism was a good and just intention, and on the other that they would gain votes with the help of immigrants – and they actually did. The population of the notorious Mollenbeek district grew by 30 percent in the past 20 years as a result of a planned settlement policy under the direction of its Socialist mayor. Thus, this mayor stayed in power for two decades but the district became a jihadist training camp, where all of the recent European terrorist attacks have their roots. After more than half a century of failed integration policy, it would be crazy to welcome the new millions approaching Europe and say, “perhaps we will succeed this time”.
What is your opinion about the EU’s tools to resolve the migrant crisis?
The quota system is the epitome of everything. It is unreasonable because it is clearly an invitation for more immigrants and unlawful because you cannot force a Member State that did not previously undertake it upon accession. It is unlawful and dangerous from a human rights perspective because it spreads the risk of terror and erodes our cultural identity. The goal should be to make sure that people fleeing war can live their lives as soon as possible in their homeland. Indeed, it is their homeland, to which they have the right. The idea to resettle 400 thousand Syrians from Turkey to Europe is unbelievable. Who will that 400 thousand be? If it is the highly educated who can speak languages, Syria would be deprived of its middle class and the possibility to find itself again. If we bring unskilled people here, some of whom are illiterate, they can never enter the European labour market when the number of unemployed in Europe is reaching 23 million. The military settlement and creation of stability in the regions concerned seems to be the solution for me. Until this happens, everything must be done to ensure that refugee camps in the neighbouring countries of war-torn areas are safe and humane. Current military action against the Islamic state is much more intense than before. Peace and stability, I think, are possible but require large military and financial effort.
Even if peace is reached, Europe will not remain the same. How do you see the future of the continent in the coming decades?
According to the UN’s research on demography, the world’s population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050 from the current 7.3 billion. And this will be far from uniform: Africa’s population will grow by 1.3 billion and Asia’s by nearly 1 billion, whereas the population of Europe will fall by 30 million and there will be huge pressure on the continent from the East and South. We need to develop solutions now to manage the demographic situation. On the one hand, we must accept that Europe’s population is shrinking and that the demographic trend, including family support tools, must be changed. On the other hand, the apparent policy of granting entry to an unlimited number of migrants cannot continue. Real cooperation is necessary because only a common and strong Europe, not the currently meaningless institutional system, can provide responses to the challenges the continent faces. Above all, it is necessary that Europe come out of its identity crisis. Or, as Pope Francis said at the European Parliament in Strasbourg: Europe should urgently rediscover its own image.