Is Hungary Donegary?

After Brexit, other countries have considered leaving the EU. Will anything come of it?

Ben Hutchins
6th March 2021
Image Credit: The Guardian
Hungary has become the first EU country to use the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. This breaks with EU consensus. It marks a continuation of the already testy relationship between Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and the European Union.

The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine isn’t authorised by the EU. Neither is the Russian Sputnic V, another vaccine being used in Hungary. However, nationalist Orbán isn’t concerned about the EU’s authorisation, quite the opposite. He’s since ordered 5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, enough to inoculate half of the Hungarian population.

“Why would we think that the Europeans are smarter than we are? This isn’t true. Our professionals are at least as good as any European professional, and I don’t trust a [vaccine] analysis in Brussels more than I do in a Hungarian one. In fact, just the opposite.”

Orbán told Hungarian radio

Hungary currently has the 4th highest proportion of their population vaccinated in the EU, behind Denmark, Malta, and Serbia. The UK has vaccinated a higher percentage of its population than any EU country. This raises further questions of the EU’s handling of the transnational vaccination programme.

The EU is now only expecting to receive a quarter of the AstraZeneca doses it had ordered by the end of March. Orbán was quick to echo the criticisms heard across Europe surrounding the EU’s inefficiency in handling the vaccine rollout. As a result, Hungary isn’t alone in ordering vaccinations outside of the EU’s regulation. Germany, a founding member of the EU, has since independently ordered 30 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in time for September.

Although the extent of Orbán’s aversions to the EU have previously remained unclear, his Eurosceptic colours have resurfaced during the pandemic.

“Every day that we would spend waiting for Brussels, we would lose a hundred Hungarian lives.”

Orbán told Hungarian radio

Prime Minister Orbán certainly doesn’t shy away from controversy. His premiership has seen widespread criticism of the country’s democratic status. Hungary is now classified as a ‘flawed democracy’, with some calling it a hybrid authoritarian system. This was recently exacerbated by the Hungarian parliament (Dominated by the right-wing Fidesz), granting Orbán’s government the right to ‘rule by decree’. Criticisms directed towards Orbán usually get dismissed, and diverted towards Brussels.

Recently, Orbán decided to withdraw from the European People’s Party. This is on the back of other members of the EPP campaigning for the expulsion of Fidesz. This further suggests that Hungary will join the short list of countries to leave the EU, following the UK’s departure.

Hungary is certainly on its last European legs. Some of the extreme views held by the right-wing figure, such as his pro-death penalty stance aren’t widely accepted within the EU, nor should they be. I would suggest the EU’s current tolerance of authoritarian Orbán, and the right-wing Fidesz party is temporary.

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