Portfolio blogger

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It’s election fever in Hungary. The national elections the 6th April will decide and show important things. As soon as they will be over and the parties have digested their results, the European election campaign will start. Usually, European elections are used as risk-free safety valves – discontent with governing (or in general „establishment” or mainstream parties can be expressed, without a consequence on domestic politics. In Hungary this time this doesn’t have to be so: domestic political opinions can be expressed in April and there will be no experience on the performance of the new government (which will be formed about a month after the elections only). Hungarian national elections also have seen a lot of protest votes and this time this will not be different. But this is another story. It can be expected that the campaign and the voting will really be about Europe, and also that only those go voting, who are interested in Europe. Thus, less Eurosceptic votes can be expected – save some surprise and a huge mobilisation by the eurosceptics – who cannot expect domestic advantage from the votes. What message can the parties give? More Europe, roaming fees, federalism, Agenda 2020, peace – or on the other side: national independence, exploitation, eurocracy – the latter are easy and popular messages but do not mean more than the ones in the first group. If we investigate, however, the national interests which Europe can support or hinder, there can be clearer messages. Hungary is dependent on imports (among them energy from Russia) and also on exports. Foreign capital is an important factor in creating employment. Hungarians are not as mobile as some other East- and Central-Europeans but still fairly mobile. Learning languages is paramount for young people and for job-seekers. Free movement in the EU is in our interest. To be able to export, we are interested in all measures to provide not just a level playing field but also abolishing administrative barriers, thus: unification of rules and practices in the area of trade, technical and security requirements, standards. And this also extends to the legal field: consumers in Hungary should be safe in buying European products and Hungarian products should be accepted in the EU as equally good quality and secure. Hungarian companies provide services abroad, competing with lower prices. It is our interest that fears from “social dumping” should not hinder our companies working abroad and our compatriots who want to work or study there. We do not want that Hungarians working abroad should have less social security because working abroad. So we are interested in a level playing field, good rules hindering social dumping so that this allegation should not have a basis. However, our budget and social security is not strong enough to provide the level in some richer countries and if we were forced to do that, we would lose our competitivity and even face serious financial problems at home. In the area of consumer protection and data protection, we favour a common approach and the possibility that the consumer or citizen (who would like to complain against abuse of personal data or unfair practices in selling or servicing goods) should be able to do it without having to b entangled in legal disputes in a faraway country. I will also go on to talk about other areas but would like to raise another question: who should be the Hungarian Commissioner and what function could he/she target? We already have some experience in the dealings and also the pitfalls of the distribution of responsibilities in the Commission.