Home/Rod Dreher/Punishing Hungary For Cause Of ‘Progress’

Punishing Hungary For Cause Of ‘Progress’

Pride march this past summer in Budapest (PBS NewsHour)

The European Commission has hit Hungary hard, withholding over 7 billion euro in Covid reconstruction money to punish Hungary for its LGBT media law. From Deutsche Welle:

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused the EU on Friday of not approving Hungary’s coronavirus recovery spending plan because of a row over LGBTQ rights.

The European Commission is responsible for handing out the bloc’s pandemic recovery fund — worth up to €800 billion ($950 billion) — but has yet to approve Hungary’s submission.

The Commission, which is still assessing plans submitted by Orban’s government, has indicated Budapest may miss out on early backing to the value of €7.2 billion in EU grants.

“Reconstruction funds are loans that Brussels does not want to give us now because of the debate around LGBTQ policy,” Orban said in an interview given to state media.

The commission is evaluating the reforms each EU member state has committed to, in exchange for their share of the recovery package.

From a leading German-Hungarian journalist:

Incredible. As Kalnoky goes on to say, if Orban’s party loses next year’s election, a good case can be made that this is the first time the EU has taken down the government of a member state by tactically withholding relief funds as a stick to make sure the vote goes as they wish.

Why are they doing this? The chief (but not exclusive) reason is that they hate the law Hungary passed this summer banning LGBT content for minors. That’s it. That’s why the Western Europeans are trying to blow up the bloc.

Bloomberg wrote earlier this week:

The EU threatened Poland with daily fines and frozen payouts in disputes over LGBTQ discrimination and judicial independence. Driven by several prime ministers, the bloc is harnessing powerful new budgetary tools in an unprecedented push to compel Poland and Hungary to reverse moves that undercut the rule of law or lose access to billions of euros.


The EU is hoping that, with its newfound financial leverage, it will be able to reverse its paltry record on disciplining rogue members, which has made it more complicated to stand up to China and support democratic values around the world. But with Hungary fully dug in, the bloc’s unity will be tested in a confrontation that could reshape the alliance in the coming years — either by effectively forcing member states accused of democratic backsliding to align themselves with its values or make them reconsider membership in the EU itself.


EU officials have said that a compromise with Poland over the rule-of-law issues could be possible, but they don’t expect a solution with Hungary at least until after the next national election, which could be in April.

“This is about the EU’s raison d’etre,” Tocci said. “The rule of law questions — whether it’s the judiciary or corruption or civil rights and hence LGBTQ — these are all fundamental pillars of liberal democracy.”

Here’s a strong op-ed by MIT professor Daron Acemoglu, in which he says Hungary must be cast out of the European Union so democracy can work. Excerpts:

To be sure, expelling Hungary, and credibly threatening Poland with the same fate, is a serious decision that should not be made hastily. Any member state can elect a government that might try to weaken democratic institutions (as Italy did with Silvio Berlusconi, and as Britain has done with Boris Johnson). Generally, the best way to deal with would-be authoritarians is to allow democratic institutions to do their jobs and trust voters to remove dangerous politicians.

But Hungary has become the exception that nullifies the rule. After more than a decade under Orbán’s Fidesz Party, its democracy appears to have been fatally wounded, raising doubts that voters could ever remove the current regime.

The longer the EU continues to treat Hungary like a normal democracy, the more damage it will do to its own brand. It should start the process of changing its rules, so that it can take action against Hungary and Poland, even if these countries try to use their veto power. It should then invoke Article Seven of the Treaty on European Union to suspend Hungary’s voting rights, and then stop the delivery of EU funds to the country while it works out the best way of terminating its membership. Barring some miraculous last-moment return to democracy, Hungary must go in order for the European project to survive.

Notice something here? Elected rulers doing things of which the Cathedral does not approve is “weaken[ing] democratic institutions.” Even though Hungary’s ruling party is genuinely and deeply and correctly concerned that it might lose the 2022 election, technocrats like Prof. Acemoglu doesn’t think this should be left to chance. If the Hungarian people won’t deliver the correct result, then the rest of Europe should make them pay.

Here’s the tell:

Moreover, there is now yet another argument for the EU to act against Hungary and Poland. With the Taliban’s reconquest of Afghanistan, there is no longer any doubt that the Western effort to establish democracy and the rule of law by force and foreign aid . From now on, Western countries will have to lead by example. As US President Jimmy Carter said in his inaugural address: “The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.”

There it is: our liberal democrats (of the left and the right) have failed to win the hearts and minds of foreign peoples, so now they’re going to turn their warmaking on their own dissenting people. I told you the other day when George W. Bush indicated that dissident Americans are the new Al Qaeda. 

The European Commission believes that Hungary’s LGBT media law is a violation of liberal democracy. I remind you that most, and maybe all, EU countries restrict speech to a degree shocking to Americans, whose liberal democracy protects free speech in the Constitution. Here’s Belgium, for example. Much of this I don’t understand, in the sense of it seems to go too far. But the people who best understand what is the correct policy for the Belgians are … the Belgians. Here is a link to a 2019 EU report on media laws to  protect children and minors. It’s perfectly clear that the EU has no problem forbidding speech that it deems harmful to minors. Its beef with Hungary is that the Hungarians do not agree that homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism are phenomena to be encouraged among children and minors. The illiberal leftist democracy that is the EU wishes to override the decisions of Hungarian parents about how their children will be educated on sex and gender matters — and then blame the Hungarians for being illiberal bigots!

Viktor Orban has contrasted “Christian democracy” with “liberal democracy,” in the EU sense. I’m not sure this works as well as it should in English, because it seems to me that Orban doesn’t think that what is called “liberal democracy” is actually liberal, in the proper sense. It sounds like he’s saying “progressive secular democracy” when he says “liberal”. I could be wrong here, because it’s clear that Orban understands that “liberalism” is not neutral. It has a substantive morality baked into it, and that moral telos is to “liberate” the desiring individual from any unchosen duties that might limit his desire.

This is why the liberal ruling class of the EU and the US can believe that teaching a kindergartner that he is free to choose his gender is liberation. This is why woke capitalists have been so eager to get on board this campaign: the more you train people up to think of their relationship to the world primarily in terms of satisfying desires, the easier they can be convinced to buy things.

Neither Poland nor Hungary are trying to force their more traditional views on LGBT on other EU member states. But this is the issue that the EU is going to the mat over — this at a time when the EU is relatively weak, and needs to strengthen itself in a world of declining US power. Incredible. They are putting Europe’s future at risk because they cannot tolerate the thought that there’s one Magyar child who hasn’t heard the gospel of gender fluidity.

Expect the same treatment here in America from our ruling class baizuocracy. They are ginning themselves up for a war they believe they can win: one on the American people, especially traditional religious people. As the media and other institutions manufacture consent to persecute us, they will begin to describe us and our institutions as undemocratic, and a violation of American ideals. And then, those who haven’t already conformed will be brought to heel. American conservatives should look at what’s being done to Hungary, and understand that the same process is coming for us, unless we can somehow stop it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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