Open Europe Blog

A bigger threat to the EU
than the UK’s ‘right to reside test’?

The Barroso Commission’s term is rapidly coming to an end and Viviane Reding and Laszlo Andor are neck and neck in a pulsating contest for who will claim the wooden spoon – the award for worst Commissioner. Reding held the lead for a long time but Andor may have just caught up after his comments about immigration at an event yesterday on engaging the youth in EU politics.

According to EurActiv, when asked by an audience member about the rise of anti-immigration in EU member states, specifically towards Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, Andor replied that this was a “non-issue” raised mainly in the UK and Denmark, who were not founding members of the EU. He went on to say that:

“Discussions there are really annoying because they are discussing on non-issues like benefits tourism which is largely a myth.

Leaving aside the extent of so-called benefits tourism – which we can debate – is a Commissioner from Hungary really saying that anti-immigration sentiment isn’t a problem? A bit rich given that an outright fascist party – Jobbik – won almost 21% of the vote in last weekend’s Hungarian parliamentary elections, a higher vote share for a similar party than in other EU country, and an increase from around 16% in 2010. Remember, this is a party that even Marine Le Pen from Front National has refused to cooperate with as she considers them to be too nasty.

There are plenty of unpleasant parties around Europe but aside from Greece’s Golden Dawn, Jobbik really are in a league of their own. Despite running a more restrained and professional campaign, the party is at its core fundamentally anti-Semitic and anti-Roma, espousing a Hungarian nationalism that sees the inter-war dictatorship under Miklós Horthy when the country was aligned with Hitler and Mussolini as a source of pride. The party also has strong links with fascist paramilitary groups that have been involved with violent street clashes with Roma.

In 2012, the party’s deputy parliamentary leader Márton Gyöngyösi infamously argued that

“I think now is the time to assess…how many people of Jewish origin there are here, and especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who represent a certain national security risk for Hungary.”

The party’s 2010 election manifesto meanwhile claimed that:

“The coexistence and cohesion of Magyar and Gypsy is one of the severest problems facing Hungarian society… a segment of the Gypsy community strive for neither integration, nor employment, nor education; and wish only that society maintain them through the unconditional provision of state benefits… certain specific criminological phenomena are predominantly and overwhelmingly associated with this minority, and that as a result such phenomena require the application of fitting and appropriate remedies.”

Given their general outlook we imagine Jobbik wouldn’t be too keen on large scale EU migrations into Hungary (other than of ethnic Hungarians from bordering countries which they have actively called for).

It is frankly ludicrous for Andor to single out the UK and other member states struggling to address the political and economic ramifications of unanticipated large scale immigration for criticism when a full blown fascist revival appears to be underway in his own backyard.

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