A new wave of “national consultations” began arriving in mailboxes across Hungary on Friday, which pose six questions to some 8 million eligible voters on a number of issues related to Hungary’s relationship with the European Union, or “Brussels” as it’s referred to in the questionnaire.
The consultation, the latest in a series since the Fidesz-government’s innovation of the concept in 2010, purports to be a questionnaire on public opinion which the government uses in guiding policy decisions. However, previous consultations have been criticized by social scientists and research experts for presenting misleading questions and being “political mobilization concealed as public opinion research.”
The latest consultation, titled “Let’s Stop Brussels!”, presents citizens with six questions regarding perceived interference in Hungarian national affairs by the European Union. A translation of the six questions is below:
- Brussels is planning to take a dangerous step. It wants to force the abolition of utility rate reduction on us. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Defend the utility rate reduction. We should insist that the price of utilities must be determined in Hungary. (b) We should accept the plan of Brussels and trust the large companies with fixing utility prices.
- In recent times, terror attack after terror attack has taken place in Europe. Despite this fact, Brussels wants to force Hungary to allow illegal immigrants into the country. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) For the sake of the safety of Hungarians these people should be placed under supervision (felügyelet) while the authorities decide their fate. (b) Allow the illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary.
- By now it has become clear that, in addition to the smugglers, certain international organizations encourage the illegal immigrants to commit illegal acts. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Activities assisting illegal immigration such as human trafficking and the popularization of illegal immigration must be punished. (b) Let us accept that there are international organizations which, without any consequences, urge the circumvention of Hungarian laws.
- More and more foreign-supported organizations operate in Hungary with the aim of interfering in the internal affairs of our country in an opaque manner. These organizations could jeopardize our independence. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Require them to register, revealing the objectives of their activities and the sources of their finances. (b) Allow them to continue their risky activities without any supervision.
- In the last few years we have been successful at job creation because we followed our own strategies. But Brussels is attacking our job-creating measures. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) We, Hungarians, must continue to make decisions on the future of the Hungarian economy. (b) Brussels should decide what to do in the economic sphere.
- Hungary is committed to tax cuts. Brussels is attacking Hungary because of it. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) We should insist that we, Hungarians, decide on tax cuts. (b) We should accept that Brussels dictates the level of taxes.
As the Budapest Beacon wrote earlier, many of the questions raised by the consultation appear to refer to struggles manufactured by the Fidesz government: utility price reductions, tax policy and Hungarian labor programs do not appear to be threatened by central policy decisions from Brussels, and the EU policies referred to in the consultation are either not yet law, voluntary, or both.
Additionally, two questions refer to “foreign-supported” or “international” organizations that threaten the safety and sovereignty of Hungary. These refer to NGOs which receive funding from international sources, and against which the Fidesz government has begun drafting legislation: a bill leaked Sunday revealing government plans to require foreign-funded NGOs to register themselves with authorities. Foremost among the affected organizations are likely to be those that receive partial funding from Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, such as the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and Transparency International.
The new wave of questionnaires will reportedly cost some HUF 1 billion (USD 3.45 million) for printing and postage costs. Hungarians have until May 20 to return them.