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Editorial: Fear those who stir fear of outsiders

History

The enemy is at the gate! Or so the government would like us to think. Whether they are talking about keeping refugees out of the country, or promoting protectionist tax policies, the Fidesz government appears to want Hungarians to believe that we are surrounded by bad people who would do harm to the country if it were not for our heroic leaders. This tactic of distraction is obvious and harmful.

Threat from abroad? A 3-year-old brought here from Afghanistan by her father, who said she was not safe from kidnapping in her home country. (Photo: Jessica Fejos)

The huge influx of migrants, mostly refugees, pouring into the country is a real problem, caused by the civil war in Syria and continuing humanitarian disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The solution to this problem does not involve paranoid measures like the construction of a 175−kilometer−long fence on the Serbian border, or the insistence by the prime minister that Hungary must break from Brussels by going against European Union policy on immigration.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees is doing what it should in handling the current crisis by supporting asylum seekers and helping them to integrate into Europe. In fact, although refugee camps are full beyond capacity, the system is still working reasonably well. What Hungary needs to be building now is more refugee camps, not a fence. Refugees are not an enemy but neighbors in need, and attempts by Brussels to encourage more assistance from reluctant European governments is not, as the prime minister tells us, a betrayal of Europe.

But refugees are not the only outsiders that the government wants to defend us from. Using protectionist fees and taxes, our leadership is seeking to interfere with free competition, and to make things easier for local companies. The government even acknowledges that this is the point behind fees and “special taxes” targeting supermarkets and tobacco distributors.

According to the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, János Lázár, the government is actively seeking “to recapture the markets in Hungary for Hungarian businesses, to send foreigners out of Hungary, and to enhance Hungary’s national industry, economy and trade as much as possible”. Another government spokesman told the Budapest Business Journal that it is “the firm intention of the government to re−distribute the disproportionate and unfair excess rights and privileges in a fair manner which is beneficial for Hungarian society”.

It is certainly ironic to hear such Marxist−sounding talk from a party that first gained notoriety by opposing communism. It is also worrying to hear the government openly telling foreign firms that they should not expect a level playing field when doing business here. Hungary is a small country with an economy that is heavily dependent on foreign direct investment. The last thing we should be doing is scaring foreign business away.

Creating enemies where they don’t exist is a classic populist trick. The scare tactic is supposed to distract us from a lack of progress, and possibly plain old inept leadership. In fact, those who want to frighten us with tales of big, bad outsiders are the real enemies – and they have been well inside the gate for a long time.

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