Is migration the main political issue nowadays? According to the European Social Survey (ESS), there are clear differences across Europe regarding the perception of immigration, according to political ideologies. However, while in most parts of Europe the dividing line is between right-wing populist parties and everyone else, in Hungary it is between the super majority of the governing coalition parties (i.e. Fidesz Party and Christian Democrats) and partly also between the far-right Jobbik and the very weak left-wing opposition voters, who themselves are at least as on the right as the radical right in Western Europe. The recent Fidesz campaign of the past years pushed the whole Hungarian political playing field to the right so far that Hungary would be out of the attitude scene elsewhere. Although Orbán’s harsh migratory text may be sympathetic to Western European populists, but if we look at the public as a whole, Hungary is living in an alternative reality more than “the Brussels elite broken away from reality”.
In most of Europe, there has been no greater anti-immigration since the migration crisis broke out- but in Hungary, the government propaganda is so effective that here the rejection is five times higher than the EU average. The issue was studied in a large European survey, and the results are first presented by the Hungarian news portal Index.
In the 2016-2017 ESS social survey, several major topics were examined, including the relationship to migration. These were analyzed by two Hungarian researchers, namely Vera Messing and Bence Ságvári. Their key findings (results) can be summarized as follows:
- The 2015 migration crisis did not crush European public opinion, it was not true that people had been fed up with migrants` reception.
- Anti-migration increased mainly in counries where no migrants had come.
- There is a sharpening difference between the East closing borders and the relatively pro-migration West.
- The Hungarian public opinion is by far the most rejective in Europe.
- Fidesz-fans and right-wing Hungarian voters hate migration abnormally compared to Western European right-wing populists.
- Even Hungary`s leftist opposition is more anti-migratory than France’s Le Pen party, the German AfD or other Western European radical right-wingers.
According to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, migration is the main political dividing line in Europe today, the pro-migration forces oppose the anti-immigration ones and all other differences are pushed into the background. Accordingly, instead of leftists and rightists, “sovereigns” and “globalists”, are facing each other and the point of crystallization is, of course, the migration. Of course, it is a political product to determine the stake of the election, but in the Hungarian reality it is all about migration e.g. experiments targeting the new European alliance systems, the conflicts within the European People’s Party (EPP), the formation of a populist block, Macron`s attempt to gather together the pro-integration parties are all stripped of the same two bits.
“Certainly it is due to the impact of Fidesz` government and media communication that the negative attitudes have resulted in such a complete rejection of migration in Hungary. These attitudes are largely determined by the norms of public discourse, and it was probably nowhere else in the world to keep the negative news of migration on the agenda so intensively than in Hungary” – Ságvári, one of the authors of the analysis interpreted the ESS data.
Anti-migration has become so common in recent years in Hungary that there are no sharp differences between the different social groups. Although the rate of rejection is higher than average in villages, those with lower qualifications and those with financial difficulties, it is clear from the figures that graduates and big cities have also hate the idea of migration. By comparison, the well off Hungarians are opposing immigration about twice as much as the Austrians in worst financial situation. In this, Fidesz` propaganda resulted in a kind of social equalization: from the point of view of attitude change, the youngest and middle-income groups were the most influenced layers, they represent the mostly growing number of the completely immigrants-refusing camp in Hungary.
In the perception of migration the Left-Right differences can be seen in every country, but the dividing lines are very different from country to country. Here again, Hungary is unique. In most countries, the sharply anti-migration forces are gathered by the radical populist parties, but in Hungary, this is done by the ruling the Fidesz party. If we look at Europe as a whole, we can see that a large proportion of politically divided public opinion is moderate in terms of immigration, the ratio of anti-migrants is significantly higher only among the very edge of the scale.
According to the ESS research 75% of the right-wing Fidesz camp and 73% of the Jobbik party voters are rejecting immigration completely. This means that the majority of Hungarian right-wing voters are much more clearly anti-migration than the Western-European populist right-wing opposition: the Fidesz camp, when it comes to immigration, is well ahead of Le Pen, AfD, Lega, the Dutch Party for Freedom, or anyone else who is outside the Western European mainstream. It should also be seen that the Hungarian leftist opposition voters (43% of the Socialist MSZP, 42% of Democratic Coalition; 20% of the Green LMP) are much more anti-immigrant than the voters of the Swedish Democrats (10%) considered as a far-right party in Hungary.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán launched Fidesz’s campaign for the 2019 European Parliamentary elections at the party’s official event held in Budapest early April. Orbán started his speech by responding to his party’s recent feud with its European political group, the European People’s Party and he said that their future cooperation depends on which way the group turns, and if it turns to the left, and towards the construction of a „Liberal European Empire”, then Fidesz will not follow them down that path. The prime minister said he understands the voices urging them to quit the EPP, but he called for patience.
Orbán talked about Manfred Weber as well, and said it’s incomprehensible why they are in such good graces with socialist Frans Timmermans, who wants to „bring in migrants” and „destroy Christian culture”.
Orbán repeated his previous theory about the new political divide of Europe, saying politics is no longer about left or right, but pro- or anti-migration, as there are those who want to protect the Christian culture and those who push for a multicultural Europe.
Orbán talked also about his other theory, presented of course as facts – he stated that the „Brussels elite” want to create the United States of Europe, but this plan cannot be executed as long as there are strong nation-states, therefore they want to replace the population of Europe with migrants to destroy Europe’s Christian culture and weaken the nation-states. He said Europe is struggling with a cultural divide and identity issues, and the Brussels elite are threatening dissenters with financial retributions.
Orbán listed a number of results from public opinion surveys conducted by Fidesz think-tank Századvég, saying 80% of Hungarians want to protect Christian culture, and that a majority, 55% of Western Europeans want the same – „even if that number includes migrants,” he added. He also said that Hungarians want a strong Europe, but they have had enough of the state of affairs in Brussels – Orbán thinks all conflicts with the EU stem from the fact that Hungarians are „not willing to act the way Brussels dictates.”
Finally, Orbán announced his seven-step program to save Christian civilisation:
- The issue of migration shall be taken away from Brussels and handed over to the nation-states,
- No country shall be obliged to accept migrants,
- Nobody shall be allowed to enter Europe without valid documentation,
- Migrant-cards and migrant-visas shall be abolished,
- Brussels shall stop funding migration-aiding Soros-NGOs,
- Nobody shall be reprimanded for being Christian in Europe,
- All EU institutions shall be lead by anti-immigration leaders.
Earlier, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Péter Szijjártó, spoke about how the 2015 refugee crisis was part of a well-organised global plot to replace Europe’s population. The minister claimed that EU bureaucracy, Brussels politicians, the liberal media, and international organisations played a role in the execution of this plan, carrying out verbal attacks against governments that try to protect their nation and culture. He said „they wanted to carry out a global brainwashing operation from New York, but Hungary stopped that.”
There is neither a refugee, nor a migration crisis in Hungary. So far, according to the monthly data reported to Eurostat, a total of 675 asylum applications were submitted to the Hungarian authorities in 2018. From the Eurostat data, it can be deduced that in January 2019, 45 asylum applications were submitted to the Hungarian authorities, which makes it clear that we can hardly talk about the crisis at the moment.
The citizens of Europe see the issue of immigration as the most pressing, biggest challenge of the European Union. Due to the Hungarian government`s campaign on public opinion and society since 2015 even more and more of the Hungarian population have been clearly visible. However, beyond legitimate and politically induced, unrealistic fears, there is no justification for this high level of anti-migrants position.
No islamization is thretaning Europe. The number of Muslims living in the European Union is between 25 and 30 million. Europe’s Muslim population reached 25 million 770 thousand in 2016, representing 4.9% of Europe’s total population. France stood at the forefront (5.7 million, 8.8% of the country’s population), followed by Germany (4.95 million, 6.1%) and Great Britain (4.13 million, 6.3%) ) follows. The largest in Cyprus (25.4% since the Turkish community has lived here for a long time) is the Muslim population, the lowest in Poland and the Baltic States (0.1-0.2%). In Hungary, 0.4% is Muslim to the population. Consequently concerns about the horror of a sort of „Islamic attack” on Europe that seeks to occupy the continent, and to „Islamize” Western civilization are highly unjustified.
This text, written by Matyas Benyik is a draft for the European ATTAC Network (EAN)/Rosa Luxemburg Stitung (RLS) semimar on migration to be held in Lecce/Italy on 17-18 May 2019.