Commentary

The EU armed Orbán with billions. His opponents? A stern scolding to fix their own democracy

If the autocracy is really Hungarians’ fault – why did the EU supply the autocrat with the financial equivalent of thermonuclear weapons? 

I am starting to feel like a citizen of some poor, African country. Am I really happy about all that “aid” coming my country’s way? After all, all that cash is soaked up by my dictator and it enables him to do as he wants with me. Rich countries enable him to live out his nastiest fantasies – and then they tell me that I’m just not freedom-minded enough. Isn’t development aid – like the EU’s cohesion fund – just another incarnation of the resource curse?

I fully understand the locals’ responsibilities in maintaining freedom in their own country, and I agree. But does the European Union understand its responsibility in not supplying aspiring autocrats with the financial equivalent of thermonuclear weapons for their fight against their democratic opponents? Doesn’t that all-important sovereignty cut both ways?

To reward him for his veto, Orbán was granted two more years of stealing and six more years of immunity – as the continued windfall of EU cash will likely win him the next elections.

It would have been nice to have a few years without EU cash.

It would have been a relief for Hungarian democracy and some breathing space for the anti-autocracy opposition. Without the historically unprecedented amount of cash thrown at Orbán during the last twelve years, he would have had to take back from his face, negotiate with others, compromise his nasty ambitions – and he would have fewer loyalists.

He could not have bought up most of the media, could not have wreaked havoc in the banking sector and could not have cronified entire industries into the hands of hand-picked loyalists. Universities would still be autonomous, and non-Orbánists would still have jobs. There would be a lot more trees.

Without the EU’s cash, Orbán would not have been in the position to starve his opposition – and his loyalists could not have done the same on every level, down to the poorest village. Which remained just as poor, by the way, or even poorer now that every forint of aid is conditional on political loyalty.

Loyalists and spineless cynics wouldn’t have had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get rich quick, and Orbán’s opponents could have kept an economic foothold and some of their sanity. For 10 long years.

Because EU cash does not trickle down. It never makes it through the thirsty membrane of Orbánist ass lickers. Orbán made sure of that when he made the EU spend it all through him.

During the last 10 years the EU supplied the autocrat with hundreds of billions in cash. His pro-democracy opponents? With a condescending lecture to fix our own democracy.

But sure, Hungarians are an undemocratic people by nature. That must be it.

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