International Politics, European Union, Populism

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The Hungarian Europe Society organised a workshop entitled "V4 for Europe – Developing positive scenarios for Europe’s future" in co-operation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on 16 May 2017.

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List of Participants


9.00 – 9.30 Registration

9.30 – 9.45 Opening remarks

János Molnár, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest
Zsuzsanna Szelényi, Member of Parliament; Member, Hungarian Europe Society

9.45 – 10.15 Keynote speech: From the Historical Concept of Populism in the European Periphery to the Emergence of Modern Populism

Movements retrospectively labeled as populist sprung up on the semicircle of the European periphery spanning from Ireland across the Mediterranean to the Eastern regions of the continent in the 19th century. Their novel imaginaries invariably incorporated notions of backwardness and the need for emancipation. These movements, however, split along the lines of seeking a model-following pattern of development (catching up) or some alternative, divergent mode of modernization, contrastable to those found in "core" countries. At the same time, these populisms relied heavily on concepts of societal organization and justice borrowed from these states and partially reproduced, through the transfers of ideas, the structures of dependency they sought to overcome. Emancipatory concepts have been appropriated by political entrepreneurs and populisms, at various historical junctures, could become co-opted by status-quo and anti-emancipatory political formations. Do the current forms of populism follow the old pattern and do they fit similarly into today's political realities in Europe?

Gergely Romsics, Senior Research Fellow, Research Center for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

10.15 – 12.00 Panel 1: Threats to the EU’s security – Views from a Visegrad perspective

Threat perceptions in Central Europe are different from those in Western Europe. While the focus there might be on regional conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, terrorism, mass migration, and climate change, some of the main concerns of the Visegrad states are rather energy dependency and Russia’s hybrid challenge. The uncertainty over Washington’s transatlantic commitments adds a particular hue to this problematique and puts pressure on Europe to redesign the Union’s own security capacities. This panel looks at security threats the EU faces from the perspective of Central Europe in order to identify some of the main concerns the Union should address to accommodate regional differences.

Dániel Bartha, Executive Director, Center for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy, Budapest: “Ungrounded Fear? Perceptions and Security Interests of the V4”

Malgorzata Bonikowska, President, Centre for International Relations, Warsaw: “Threats to the EU Security from a V4 Perspective: Information War and the Fake News Phenomenon”

Michal Šimečka, Senior researcher, Institute of International Relations, Prague: “Visegrad Perspectives on European Security: Rediscovering the EU Mainstream?”

Magdalena Vasaryova, Former Slovak Ambassador to Austria and Poland, Bratislava: “What Security Means to Modern Europeans? Is There Still a Divide between East and West?”

Moderator: Zsuzsanna Végh, Vice-chair, Hungarian Europe Society, Budapest

12.00 – 13.00 Lunch

13.00 – 15.00 Panel 2: Is there a populist foreign policy? – The revival of nationalism and new concepts of national interest in Central Europe

With the strengthening of populist forces and nationalist narratives in Central Europe, we also witness certain shifts and transformations in the foreign policy thinking and making of countries like Poland and Hungary increasingly emphasizing national sovereignty also in matters of international relevance. But can there be a ‘sovereign concept of foreign policy’ within the framework of the European Union? If so, what does it amount to? This panel explores the foreign policies of populist regimes, especially of Hungary and Poland, and hypothesizes that their approach is characterized by a new take on the concept of national interest and economic protectionism in the context of the European Union.

Botond Feledy, Rector, Saint Ignatius Jesuit College, Budapest: “Domestication of Foreign Policy: New Risks, Old Populism”

Grigorij Mesežnikov, Director, Institute of Public Affairs – IVO, Bratislava: “Visegrad in the EU: Old or New Europe?”

Lucia Najslova, Lecturer, Charles University, Prague: “'Post-crisis'?: EU Migration Policies”

Wojciech Przybylski, Editor-in-chief, Visegrad Insight, Warsaw: “Chaotic Hypocrisy - Solidarity, Unity and Sovereignty Narratives in the EU”

Moderator: András Radnóti, Member, Hungarian Europe Society, Budapest

15.00 – 15.15 Coffee Break

15.15 – 17.15 Panel 3: Can European foreign policy frameworks counter the populist flow?

Populist political forces have been long strengthening in Europe, but the last years have made it clear that the EU lacks both the institutional capacities and the political will to respond to such growing illiberal challenges as posed by the governments of Hungary and Poland. While currently among the loudest, they are only the first of many rising actors openly questioning the liberal values of the EU and the value of acting together on the international stage in a variety of issues. As Mai'a K. Davis Cross puts it, “[t]he main argument is that ideas are a core part of why institutions matter and how they shape state behavior.” By questioning the core ideas of the integration, populist forces undermine the institutions and operational frameworks of the EU and promote their ideas of modus operandi. Considering that European foreign policy as such is a volatile and little centralized construct, can it deal with the phenomenon of populist and nationalist foreign policy? How might we safeguard the EU’s cohesion and unity in the face of such a challenge whilst reflecting on the tide of national sentiment within the Union?

Dušan Fischer, Research fellow, Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Bratislava: “It Was Never Meant to Be Simple - A Call for Normalcy in the EU Foreign Policy”

Piotr Buras, Director, European Council on Foreign Relations Warsaw Office, Warsaw: “Poland under Kaczynski: Is There a Populist Foreign Policy?”

Martin Michelot, Deputy Director, EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, Prague: “Thinking Critically about Two-speed Europe: What Does It Mean for EU Foreign Policy and Security?”

Edit Zgut, Analyst, Political Capital, Budapest: “Populism and Russian Influence in Central Eastern Europe”

Moderator: István Hegedűs, Chairman, Hungarian Europe Society

17.15 – 17.30 Closing remarks

István Hegedűs, Chairman, Hungarian Europe Society, Budapest

Political Renewal

On 19 April 2017 Anna Donáth, Barnabás Kádár and Anna Orosz, three leaders of Momentum Movement, were the guests of HES. 

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    Györgyi Kocsis, Anna Donáth, István Hegedűs, Barnabás Kádár, Anna Orosz
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    Anna Donáth, István Hegedűs, Barnabás Kádár, Anna Orosz, Kinga Szuly

Hungary Needs NGO-s

On 21 March 2017 the Hungarian Europe Society signed a joint protest declaration as one of its initiators against the threats presented by the Hungarian government to civil organisations.

Signatory NGOs

There is no society without civil society: Hungary needs us. 

The work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is essential to Hungarian society. We do diverse and irreplaceable work while striving for the common good and the achievement of democracy:
the self-organisation of citizens provides shared opportunities for cultural, educational, health and environmental advocacy. Moreover, it allows groups of citizens to jointly represent their interests, participate in public life, and keep the political power of office holders in check at all times.

We, the undersigned NGOs resolve to reject the Hungarian Government’s aspirations to restrict and stigmatise civil society. We are indispensable to Hungarian society to deal with and monitor matters that others do not pay enough attention to. We stand up for ourselves and for each other.

Hungary needs NGOs

Parliament’s legislative plan for the first half of 2017 includes the intention to amend the regulation which defines the legal functioning of NGOs. During a press conference held on 14 March 2017, it was announced that Fidesz-led coalition would initiate a five-party consultation on a draft law concerning "foreign-funded" organisations. The actual content of this so-called “national consultation” is yet unknown. However, some politicians have gone so far as to propose that the process be used as a method to “clear away” certain NGOs, while others labelled particular NGOs as foreign agents.

We the undersigned NGOs, strongly protest. Pursuing such a legislative agenda would infringe upon the freedom of association. Furthermore, we reject the attempt to stigmatise NGOs, their clients, sympathisers and supporters. Such a move not only impinges on the perception of the valuable work and credibility of organisations in question, but also limits of democratic expression and the possibility of citizen participation in public affairs as a whole. Based on statements concerning the proposed legislation up until now, the modifications would run contrary to international conventions signed by Hungary, and probably not pass the test of constitutionality.

We maintain that the so-called "national consultation" is an unsuitable method to assess the true facts and state of public opinion. Based on past experience, it is clear that this cannot be a substitute for real social debate.

The current Hungarian regulation regarding the NGO sector provides an adequate framework that guarantees legal safeguards, as well as the transparency and accountability for the activities for which the civil organisations were established. Management transparency is already sufficiently regulated, as highlighted by data made publicly available in a number of press releases.

Therefore, it is unacceptable that we can only keep abreast of information concerning the new legislative ideas and "national consultation" from the press when certain politicians make statements to discredit civil society. We anticipate that the formulation of any new law (amendment) must involve stakeholders and professional debate before it reaches its final form; as one would expect in a democratic constitutional state, and as required by Hungarian law.

We demand that the regulation governing the functioning of civil society’s fundraising and activities be transparent, and that it be consistent with international and European standards. Most importantly, the regulation must guarantee the right of citizens to freely associate, organise their activities and search for funds.

Pictures of a Workshop

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    Zsuzsanna Szelényi, István Hegedűs
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    Krisztina Rozgonyi, Gábor Halmai, Györgyi Kocsis
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    Fanni Bársony, Zsuzsanna Szelényi, Dóra Győrffy
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    Balázs Váradi, Dóra Piroska
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    László Bruszt, Zsófia Stahl, Daniela Lenčéš Chalániová
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    András Radnóti, István Hegedűs, László Bruszt
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    István Hegedűs, László Bruszt
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    István Hegedűs, László Bruszt, Lenčéš Chalániová
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    Tomasz Pawel Wozniakowski, Kim Lane Scheppele, Laurent Pech, Tomasz Koncewicz
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    Kim Lane Scheppele, Laurent Pech
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    László Bruszt, István Hegedűs
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    Orsolya Salát, Oliver Garrner, Renáta Uitz, Zsuzsanna Végh
  • DSC 2006
    Laurent Pech, Tomasz Tadeusz Koncewicz
  • DSC 2024
    Dimitry Kochenov
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    István Hegedűs
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    Zsuzsanna Szelényi, Kálmán Petőcz
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    Christian Joerges
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    Gergő Medve-Bálint, Erik Uszkiewicz, Zsófia Stahl
  • DSC 2086
    Renáta Uitz, Zsuzsanna Végh, Kata Nagy
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    Dóra Piroska, Wojciech Sadurski, András Radnóti
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    Tomasz Koncewicz, Györgyi Kocsis
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    Renáta Uitz, Zsuzsanna Végh, Kata Nagy, Véta Tarjányi, Krisztina Rozgonyi
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    Fanni Bársony, Péter Molnár, Tomasz Pawel Wozniakowski, Kim Lane Scheppele, Laurent Pech
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    Gergő Medve-Bálint, Erik Uszkiewicz, Zsófia Stahl, Fanni Bársony
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    András Radnóti, Dimitry Kochenov


Takis Pappas, visiting scholar at the Central European University made a presentation entitled "What do the people distrust when they decide to trust populism?" on 8 February 2017.

  • 20170208 191102Takis Pappas, András Schweitzer, Erik Uszkiewicz, Fanni Bársony, Zsuzsanna Végh
  • 20170208 191250Takis Pappas, Mustár dog