Divergent Paths and the Sustainability of Representative Democracy in the EU
As recently as a decade ago, Hungary and Ireland shared a broadly similar cultural domain. Both were (and are) small, open economies.
Both had a predominantly Catholic culture, shaped by engagement with Europe extending back more than a millennium. The role of St Stephen in establishing the Christian heritage and identity of Hungary and that of the great Irish missionary to Europe, St Columbanus1—lauded by Robert Schuman— illustrate the depth of their common Christian roots. Thanks to the famous Irish painting, Our Lady of Győr, both traditions met and influenced one another in the Cathedral Basilica of Győr, Hungary. Both nations have contributed to the emergence of Europe’s distinctive identity in their unique ways. Notably, each country has experienced political oppression, most recently pre-1989 Hungary under Soviet communism. Each has also struggled over the centuries to affirm its independence and sovereignty: to be ‘a Nation once again’.2 In both countries, the political discourse in the public square was mediated primarily through Christian Democratic values.
SOMETHING HAPPENED …
Then something happened. The catalyst was the global banking and debt crisis of 2008–2011. That crisis—and the EU’s response to it via the Troika composed by the IMF, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank—was an inflection point, leading to far-reaching changes in the governance of both countries. Their political and cultural narratives diverged sharply, mirroring what was happening across the wider EU. Reflecting on the dynamics of this divergence provides important insights into repressive aspects of the governance of the EU—into the mindset of what the English philosopher Roger Scruton called the ‘New Europe’,3 which diverged radically from its foundational vision and Christian values.
Ireland was, effectively, rolled over by the EU’s cult of austerity—a grievous offence against its own foundational value of solidarity—when the Troika took over the de facto governance of the country on 28 November 2010.4 It left the political establishment, which had presided over an unprecedented political trauma, in crisis and wide-open to ‘capture’ by far-left politics. In sharp contrast, Hungary’s new government responded to the banking and debt crisis by affirming its sovereignty and its identity as a Christian and democratic nation. It retained control over the policy narrative. Hungary’s 2011 Constitution, which solidified this response, was no ‘right-wing credo’.5 It reflected the same political philosophy, normative values, and policy principles as those affirmed by Adenauer.6 It was the EU that had changed.
This article reflects on what lessons can be learned from the forces driving each of these countries along such very different paths in the wake of the crisis—and what they tell us about the current status of representative democracy within the EU. It does not address issues around the exogenous ‘shock’ of the COVID-19 vaccine debacle across the EU and globally. In passing, it may just be pointed out that it demonstrated yet again that the well-being and safety of a nation should not be ceded to the agenda of a supranational body. At least not without the risks of significant welfare costs, which arise when the priorities of the country and those of the supranational body do not align.
ONE CRISIS—DIVERGENT RESPONSES
The global banking and debt crisis, which threatened at one stage to unravel the Eurozone,7 impacted both economies. The two countries’ radically different political and social responses to the crisis illustrate how far the EU has diverged from the genius of its foundational values—and expose the intrinsically repressive nature of the governance of EU institutions.
The crisis had an immediate and traumatic impact on the economies of both Hungary and Ireland—and on their political institutions and civil societies. Ireland succumbed, under pressure from the EU, to the orthodoxy of austerity. The implementation of austerity was delegated to the ‘Troika’,8 a triumvirate of institutions comprising the IMF—with vast technical experience of overseeing structural adjustment programmes—and two European institutions, the Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB), both of which had an essentially political agenda.
The Troika’s mandate and mode of operation were put together ‘on the hoof’ at an existential point in the first half of 2010. It had not been thought through. It lacked legitimacy. The imposition of austerity over the heads of vulnerable peripheral countries mired in a debt crisis triggered by rogue markets, self-inflicted wounds, and the dominance of the EU centre, has had a lasting effect, scarring their resilience and their sovereignty.
In Ireland, the banking crisis, the subsequent collapse of the real economy and, by extension, fiscal policy impelled Ireland into a €65 billion ‘bailout’, precipitated by the ECB. The de facto transfer of the governance of an independent nation into the hands of an unelected Troika was an existential and moral catastrophe for Ireland. It also revealed a repressive side of the governance of the EU. For Ireland, this international humiliation was made worse by the fact that it was, partly, a result of political and cultural hubris.9
The ensuing political crisis and general election10 enabled the capture and colonization of Ireland’s governance by cultural Marxism. The former head of the IMF’s Troika team in Ireland11 later acknowledged that the austerity-only policy imposed on Ireland as a condition for EU/IMF support was a mistake. There were alternatives to the imposition of austerity. These included the ‘burning’ of foolish bondholders, who were ‘free riding’ on moral hazard at the expense of the social economy from which they had sought to profit. Indeed, a decision by the incoming government to do so in 2011 was met with disconcerting threats12 from the ECB. Loans on easy terms and conditions were given grudgingly. The Troika imposed a punitive form of austerity on EU member countries when they were at their most vulnerable.
WHAT HUNGARY AVOIDED
That is precisely what Hungary avoided.13 It resisted ‘capture’ and mandatory external oversight by institutions with very different priorities than the welfare of the Hungarian nation. It rejected ‘debt dependence’. Hungary’s policy response and, by extension, the affirmation of its political sovereignty have been vindicated. It might be said, however, that the EU progressivist orthodoxy has never forgiven it.
The substance of the matter is that in 2010, Hungary’s newly elected government chose a very different path to the one enforced on Ireland. In the words of the 2010 IMF Article IV Report,14 the new Hungarian government ‘took a decidedly new approach’. It affirmed domestic control over economic adjustment, including revamping what the IMF termed domestic ‘economic governance’ to facilitate the swift and efficient implementation of its policy programme for recovery and renewal. These were directed towards a different growth dynamic.
The Hungarian government’s priority was to mitigate the burden of unavoidable macroeconomic adjustment on households and domestic small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It made effective use of the tax regime—one of the few instruments available to a small, open economy. Its low, flat-rate personal tax rate and its 9 per cent corporate tax regime, together with a moratorium on home repossessions, were focused on supporting households and families, domestic businesses, and foreign direct investment (FDI). Hungary rejected the sale of vast residential and commercial portfolios to overseas investment companies, including vulture funds, which, together with massive cuts in the social economy and emigration, was at the heart of Troika-imposed ‘deleveraging’ in Ireland.
Hungary went further. It identified the single greatest threat to the longer-term sustainability of the country and to Europe—its demographic deficit.15 It addressed this challenge as an integral part of rebuilding Hungary’s social economy—an innovative and positive alternative to the anti-life and anti-family dogmas of the socialist neo-Marxist model.
Through its fiscal policies, the Hungarian government demonstrated the pivotal importance of family, not just in terms of economics but also—and a reality substantially ignored by the EU—as the primary source of social capital, with all the positive externalities this creates across society and across the generations. This was almost a decade before the EU itself awoke to the systemic nature of its demographic crisis under the Croatian presidency of the EU Council, which highlighted the existential threat of population decline.
Today, even in the face of a ‘demographic winter’,16 the EU lacks any reflective and instinctual understanding of the synergies between family formation, social capital, and minimizing state interventions. It has continued to prioritize an ideological ‘deconstruction’ of the biological family over an anthropologically based policy of strengthening and investing in Christian Democracies’ foundational understanding of family. This is indicative of the EU’s cultural amnesia.
The insights of Adenauer, Schuman, and de Gasperi, who drew on Catholic social teaching (CST) embedded in Christian Democracy,17 have been excised from the EU narrative. The loss is enormous because of all that Christianity brings to, and nourishes in, representative democracy—and civilization more widely: that is normative, ethical principles. ‘Christians are called to reject, as injurious to democratic life, a conception of pluralism that reflects moral relativism. Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society.’18 More specifically, in a recent paper, Dr Mario Draghi, speaking of Italy’s demographic crisis, pointed to ‘The essentiality of wanting to have children and wanting to build a family … the ethical dimension that these desires and decisions entail is fundamental for all societies where the family is important—according to many, including myself, therefore for all societies. However, this ethical dimension was often denied and rejected.’ Dr Draghi’s proposition could hardly be more robust and pointed. That is what Ireland ceded following the catharsis of the banking and debt crisis—and the long march of neo-Marxism through the institutions and the public square. That is what Hungary affirmed and continues to bear witness to in an EU in which representative democracy is being overwhelmed.
A DECIDEDLY NEW APPROACH
It seems clear, reading between the lines of the IMF 2010 Article IV consultations, that the IMF staff were taken aback by Hungary’s ‘decidedly new approach’ of using fiscal policy to shield households and support the formation of families. It was, and remains, the antithesis of the EU’s mindset. And yet, when one reflects on the EU’s fixation on austerity—which incidentally went much further than the IMF felt comfortable with—Hungary’s response was clearly proportional and more appropriate than that of the EU.
The government’s revamping of ‘domestic economic governance’ went against the grain of the EU mindset of ‘control’. Criticism of this part of Hungary’s response to the crisis needs to be seen in context. The EU Stability and Growth Pact (SGP)—which was drafted in an utterly different era—proved powerless in the face of the Eurozone contagion, and an obstacle and constraint on member states attempting to safeguard their cohesion and their social economy. Yet it continued to hover, like Banquo’s ghost, over EU orthodoxy.
There is an objective case for ‘independent governance’ of domestic policies. There are also exceptional circumstances in which they must be effectively set aside, since they can be used as a proxy, allowing control to be exercised by externally-driven agendas seeking to subvert or to stymie government responses to national crises. The former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, was memorably ‘monitored out’ of accessing data from his own Department to strategize contingencies for a Grexit. To understand the real and lasting costs such actions can impose on a nation, one need look no further than the Troika’s emasculation of the governance of Greece19—the overruling of democratic elections, slashing of pensions and living standards, and the flight of capital and young people. The Troika eviscerated representative democracy in Greece, and it should be remembered that the repressive ‘agreement’ was imposed on that country just five years ago.
This provides some context for what was unfolding in 2010 when Hungary was locked in an existential struggle, trapped between the rock of socialist ideology inherited upon the breakup of the Soviet Union and the hard place of flawed policies driven by an external view of what was in the best interest of Hungarian families. Hungary chose to remain in control of its own destiny.
COLONIZATION AND CAPTURE
In Ireland, the Troika programme decimated the health system and the housing sector. Whole college classes of nurses and young medics emigrated—just as they did in Greece. Ireland’s social economy bore the brunt of both self-inflicted domestic policy failures and of the EU’s misconceived Troikanomics. The Troika constrained Ireland in order to prioritize the European banking system over households, including an absurd EU-enforced ‘rescue’ of a dead bank, the Anglo- Irish Bank, and the short-term, counterproductive sale of the overseas assets of its largest bank, AIB (Allied Irish Banks), in the US and in Poland.
By contrast, Hungary, where the balance sheets and funding of both domestic and foreign banks also came under serious pressure, adjusted policies to allow them to contribute to the protection of the social economy. The strength and resilience of the Hungarian banking system in 2019, as assessed by both the IMF and by the EU in their respective reports,20 vindicated its democratically elected government and that government’s decision to retain, not cede, its responsibility for managing and implementing macroeconomic adjustment.
There are important lessons.
The restoration of internal and external balance to a country is a painful process. Even so, the outcomes of macroeconomic adjustment should not be chronicled in home repossessions, in a flight of financial capital and young people to the centre, in the sale of the assets of the nation to international financial speculators, the decimation of living standards, and suicides. This is the polar opposite of adjustment and rebalancing. And all of this to accommodate the tyranny of a ‘strategy’ to placate European institutions, who have long forgotten the foundational priority of the social economy, girded around families, households, and the marginalized. Economics is about developing the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual capabilities of people—‘the final ends of humanity’—as one of the classic economics texts explained. It is about the resilience of the nation in giving substance to the common good and in the exercise of its relational autonomy with its political and commercial hinterland. The EU has excised what economics is actually about from its mindset. In the turmoil of the post- 2010 debt crisis, Hungary chose to rebuild an economy that works for the future of the people. The asymmetric adjustment built into the Eurozone exacerbated the wider EU crisis.21 More generally, in Ireland, the primary purpose of the Troika’s adjustment was not so much to mitigate pressures on households as to stabilize a conceptually flawed euro and to alleviate the consequences for European banks of their failures and misjudgements. The Troika’s injunctions imposed a burden of billions of euros in debt on Ireland to offset the failings of European banks.
Importantly, Hungary introduced a new constitution in 2011, in which its social economy was embedded—and which upheld Christian Democratic values: values which had until relatively recently been at the heart of the EU. In Ireland, by contrast, these same values were eviscerated by incoming administrations, with the smaller far-left ideologies of the coalition dictating its constitutional and legislative agenda: a repressive regime of non-medical abortion, same-sex marriage, and the implementation of neo-Marxist gender theory across the public sector.
That is, perhaps, the single greatest divergence between the two nations. Hungary had experienced the reality of Marxism in the pre-1989 period, and subsequent attempts to rehabilitate it in one form or another. Solzhenitsyn has pointed out22 that socialism is cut from the same cloth as neo-Marxism—and follows inevitably from it. The Preamble to its 2011 Fundamental Law proclaimed Hungary’s sovereignty, democracy, and Christian identity, and a commitment to solidarity, democratic freedoms, and the pillars of its social economy: life, marriage, family, and work. Ireland, by contrast, ceded its policy independence to the EU and its transcendent values to neo-Marxism. Its public sector and institutions, and the public square, have been colonized by the multicultural ‘woke’. The process was highly strategized, facilitated in part by externally funded NGOs and tacitly furthered by the EU. This point merits further consideration.
OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIAL OR NGO-DRIVEN INTERVENTIONS
Hungary would never have pushed through its economic and social programme had it not resisted official and unofficial, externally funded interventions. ‘Official’ intervention takes the form of an enforced ‘control through indebtedness’, including those enforced by EU institutions. Reflecting on the asymmetries built into EU governance—surplus vs debtor countries, and centre vs periphery— it is perhaps worth noting that Germany ran a trade and budget surplus right through the banking and debt crisis, even as the periphery haemorrhaged capital and people—the counterpart of its ‘surplus’. This mirrors deep-rooted concerns regarding representative democracy and how outcomes can be skewed against national interests at times of upheaval and crisis.
The EU has neither reflected on nor learned from the moral and social narratives around the banking and debt crisis. So, for example, the same mindset of ‘control through indebtedness’ is engineered into the €750 billion 2020 Pandemic Fund. The same EU ascendency has pushed for access to what was initially conceived of as a straightforward Keynesian response to the pandemic, to be conditional on Hungary’s acceptance of EU’s putative ‘norms’ regarding ‘the rule of law’, in other words, to politically weaponize the EU’s foundational value, solidarity.
On one level, this reflects an unresolved tension between two versions of legitimacy, with the EU overriding the responsibilities of democratically elected national governments. This dynamic is implemented by incremental extensions of control through opaque directives and ‘norms’ which are neither understood nor engaged with by national electorates. At a broader level, it reflects the new woke or progressivist EU orthodoxy which seeks to push back against and stymie Hungary’s Christian-inspired constitutional values and economic and social policies which uphold those values.
By way of example, the EU 2019 Report on Hungary, while commending the ‘once in a generation’ success of its economic reforms, uses the report to criticize the social governance of the country which, in a less hegemonistic EU, would be a matter for a national government. A metaphor for the intrusive nature of the EU model was its criticisms in that report relating to the small percentage of children under the age of three in state crèches, compared with its Barcelona benchmarks—a coercive template for women, incentivizing and covertly directing young mothers into the labour force. The mindset is predicated not on providing women with young children options but, rather, pre-emptively preventing them from availing themselves of such options. The difference between the EU’s dirigiste and statist model of the family and Hungary’s ‘family-friendly’ social model could hardly be more stark. At a recent conference in Rome, Pope Francis pointed out that ‘wanting to have children, wanting to build a family, have always been fundamental decisions in our lives’. He encouraged longer term family-centric policies to give young families hope and confidence that they will be able to support big families over the years.
PHILANTHROPY AS CAPTURE
Unofficial intervention, more subtle but no less powerful, is directed towards precisely the same goal as the EU’s stated agenda. Yet the distinction is an important one and bears reflecting on.
While official external political intervention is leveraged with official funding of EU-directed policies, unofficial intervention is funded by external private ‘philanthropic’ organizations, mediated through a multiplicity of NGOs that increasingly honeycomb the governance of global supranational bodies, including the EU. They are directed towards pressuring the government or supranational governing body to enact the group’s ideological agenda.
This process was evident in both Hungary and Ireland in the wake of the banking and debt crisis. In Ireland, unofficial and externally funded interventions leveraged the government’s left-wing, statist agenda. It helped topple the governance of the country. Hungary, by contrast, confronted and faced down similar externally directed and funded unofficial interventions.
In two important articles in The Irish Times in 201523 and 2017,24 journalist and commentator Breda O’Brien reflected on how external funding helped build up a powerful lobbying system that supported referendum campaigns aimed at changing Ireland’s Constitution. She examined how foreign funding ‘buys undemocratic influence’. Her analysis, which resonated with what was unfolding at the same time in Hungary, merits citing at some length. In 2015,25 O’Brien raised issues about ‘the enormous amounts of money that Atlantic Philanthropies was pouring into Glen [Gay and Lesbian Equality Network]… As a result, Glen went from a tiny organization to a well-oiled lobbying machine virtually overnight, boasting about how it had access to successive ministers and how easy it was to gain their support … It works “inside” the machinery of government, where it uses a “principled pragmatist” model in which it consolidates support, wins over the doubtful, and pacifies those who are opposed …’
As O’Brien pointed out: ‘This is not Atlantic Philanthropies funding a hospital or school. This is foreign money being systematically invested in changing public opinion, to deliver seamlessly a Yes in a referendum that has enormous consequences for family law for generations.’26
Atlantic Philanthropies was not alone. Its agenda was supported by the globalist lobby group Open Society, funded by George Soros. O’Brien notes that ‘leaked Soros document[s] state[s] that the money was given to … three organizations to work collectively on a campaign to repeal Ireland’s constitutional amendment [the Eighth Amendment, giving equal protection to the life of a mother and her unborn child]’. It continued that ‘The hope is that a win [i.e. the abolition of the constitutional prohibition on non- medical abortion] could impact on other strongly Catholic countries, such as Poland …’27
There is only one thing more extraordinary than these revelations in an ostensibly representative democracy. That is the fact that they were very largely ignored by the mainstream media and, of course, by the government, which serves their agenda. Nor did the EU, which hovers over the ‘rule of law’ infringements by Hungary, intervene or criticize such externally funded interventions in a member country.
Externally funded and directed organizations, and NGOs, were campaigning at the same time to undermine and overthrow Hungary’s government and its constitution. Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó stated28 in a 2015 interview: ‘I think that George Soros is present in a lot of attacks against Hungary and in a lot of pressure put on Hungary; his network is there and his capital is there …’
It is important to point out that NGOs, per se, can play an important role in civil society, being more flexible than government and drawing on the ethos and social virtue of voluntarism. However, where they are captured and weaponized for ideological purposes, they can be subversive and self-serving—building little ‘empires’ that subsist on contrived class conflict, within the ambit of classic Marxism–Leninism.29 The colonization of governance by NGOs, lavishly funded by the government in Ireland, systematically undermines representative democracy. In Ireland, and in Hungary, it did so with the tacit and sometimes explicit approval of the EU.
It does this directly through ‘political activism’ so that ostensibly ‘independent’ NGOs and the government leach power from each other in the pursuit of a joint ideological agenda. It does so indirectly because, by ‘capturing’ mainstream political parties, it can screen and pre-select parliamentary candidates according to its own woke criteria. It can exclude all who do not conform. It pushes the same ideology on fundamental social issues. It can, with ‘covering fire’ from the establishment, selectively ignore elected governments when it is expedient. It is a malign form of ‘shadow government’, oppressive of representative democracy.
Individuals—and countries—in denial characteristically engage with their desensitized capacity to reflect on matters of fact by denigrating those who stand against them and against whom their underlying hostility is therefore directed. And so, the latter are castigated from an approved menu of epithets: ‘right-wing’, ‘…phobic’ (insert your term of choice) and so on. Gaslighting is a terrible thing to observe in a democracy that has been captured and colonized.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has pointed out that ‘The world’s political and media elite defer to the NGOs to tell us what they think society wants … [Representative democracy] says what it wants in elections by choosing a government and parliamentary representatives’. He added that civil society groups and NGOs were not in any way representative of society, because ‘society is represented by the elected governments and elected politicians, and no one voted for a single civil [society] organization … their legitimacy is not comparable with the legitimacy of a government elected by several million people’. And that, of course, is precisely the point of how neo-Marxism employs such forces to advance its agenda.
IDEOLOGICAL HEGEMONY: THE NGO–MNC AXIS AND THE MOBILIZATION OF TECH TITANS
Mainstream media, and especially social media, magnify the coercive pressures and the leverage that NGOs bring to bear on the governance of representative democracy. In the EU, ideologically driven and externally funded NGOs challenge democratic governments. They oppose culture, faith, and social values once shared across Europe, but which have been displaced by the weaponization of the rainbow flag.
The ideological forces that lobby against Hungary’s constitution are the same as those that exert multiple kinds of pressure across academia to de- platform and cancel any opposing voice, shut down informed debate, and dismiss all those that take a contrary position. It is not, of course, that neo- Marxists do not see the irony. It is simply that they believe that the exercise of freedoms they purport to laud are, in their eyes, weaknesses, to be used in every circumstance to overthrow values and institutions that once were distinctively Western, and that stand against the tyranny of gender theory and identity politics.
The logic of the campaigns led by the Open Society et al. to overthrow constitutional values in Ireland and in Hungary was simple and compelling: if Ireland could be taken down, so could Hungary and Poland—countries whose values represent the counter-culture to what the EU has become. The vulnerabilities of Ireland to ideological capture—the legacy of appalling historical sexual abuse scandals and self-inflicted economic and fiscal imbalances—made it easier to capture. But neo- Marxism is nothing if not opportunistic.
Multinational companies (MNCs)—the titans of information, technology, and communication—and cultural Marxism, feed off each other. The former has all the power of unprecedented wealth generated by—and reinforced through—a near-monopoly on how we communicate, work, and are ‘entertained’. It is expedient—and enormously profitable—for the tech titans to go with the grain of neo-Marxism. That is, to disseminate and profit from a political zeitgeist that has weaponized the rainbow banner as a means of sustaining political power and cultural dominance. It is no longer about opposing ‘discrimination’. It is about imposing an atheistic and dystopian totalitarianism, rooted in a ‘space’ where Nietzsche meets Freud.
This is the ideological mind of what Scruton et al. called the ‘New Europe’, which has excised ‘Old Europe’. So pervasive and so powerful has it become that it has discarded the Socratic tradition of Greece, the transformational and redemptive truth of Christianity, and the surpassing Western contribution to art, literature, and aesthetics—and for what! For an anti-science and repressive cultural Marxism which seeks to remake ‘Europe’ in its own image and likeness. Globally it has displaced—or, rather, made subservient—competing political paradigms, ‘crowding out’ God, representative democracy, and normative virtues. It is intolerant of all contrary views—faith, reason, and science—even silence itself. Christianity, the nation, and the family must be captured and colonized—and in every space, from Disney to the EU. The tech titans of social media are their transmission belt, to mobilize, to form their case, and to subjugate dissonant voices. This ‘axis’ of corporate woke and neo-Marxist woke has far more power, influence, and leverage than all Western governments. It has infiltrated universities, which are the indispensable seedbed of neo- Marxism, and the media, especially social media. It censors with near impunity. It has also permeated and colonized the EU. And so the EU now contrives to reject in Hungary’s constitution, laws, and institutions, the very values on which the EU itself was founded. It does so under the pretext of ‘rule of law’— devoid of self-awareness regarding, for example, its treatment of Greece and its efforts to impose mandatory directives by fiat. This comes at a price. The Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenković, pointed out in January 2020 that ‘When Western European political leaders meet their Central and Eastern European counterparts, all they want to discuss is the crisis of democracy and the erosion of the rule of law. The priority for the latter, however, is the demographic crisis and the depopulation of their countries’.30
Hungary’s response to the banking and debt crisis, which took Europe to the cusp of an unprecedented financial collapse, was to take responsibility for implementing policies that preserved macroeconomic stability as—and this is the important point—the foundation of a social economy that worked for families, households, and the Hungarian economy.
The beating heart of this ‘decidedly new approach’, in the words of the IMF, was a visionary, and highly practical, ‘family-friendly’ set of policies that would enable young couples to marry and have children, together with support for owning their own home. These were reinforced by measures enabling women, should they want to, and when they wanted, to return to work, including generous tax reliefs. In addition, the government allocated 5 per cent of its annual budget to copper- bottom the long-run sustainability of ‘family-friendly’ policies.
Hungary did not cede responsibility to external agendas, it resisted the EU cult of austerity and debt dependence, and it prioritized families and children as the future of the nation. It embedded this ‘Hungarian Model’ of long-run stability and growth in a constitution that affirmed its distinctive Christian history, identity, and normative social values. This is the substance of representative democracy in Hungary.
Ireland, captured and colonized by neo-Marxism, was impelled in a very different direction. Its social economy was scarred by austerity. It used fiscal policy to incentivize not family formation and children, but rather multinationals who expediently preach the Gospel of Woke, and whose agenda is driven not by the national interest but by boardrooms coming from a very different place. Its Constitution has been eviscerated of the gospel of life and family. Religious worship was criminalized during the COVID-19 lockdown, and that ‘draconian’ and unjustified legislation remains on the statute book. Free speech is now at risk in Ireland’s ever-more desperate attempt to proclaim its faux-liberal credentials when, in truth, it is consumed by an identity crisis.
Hungary has maintained a representative democracy endorsed by the people and which is loathed by the bureaucrats of what the EU has become. Ireland is now locked into the EU, in a kind of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. Representative democracy has been eclipsed in Ireland—only the ‘wraith’ remains.
The 2020 Croatian presidency of the European Council took as its theme the demographic winter that is inexorably descending on Europe. Hungary was well ahead of Brussels in understanding, and acting on, this truly existential crisis. Ireland was, and remains, blind to this reality, consumed with enabling forces engaged in a covert war on faith values, democracy, and the public square. Few countries in Europe were more ravaged by austerity than Italy, or more harassed by an EU orthodoxy fretting about percentage point deviation from its long redundant Stability and Growth Pact metrics, even as its population withered.
At a recent Conference in Rome,31 Dr Mario Draghi, who led the ECB during the banking and debt crisis and is now Prime Minister of Italy, pointed out that ‘An Italy without children is an Italy that doesn’t have a place in the future … an Italy that is slowly ceasing to exist’. At the same conference, Pope Francis lauded the Italian government’s decision to provide a financial incentive to families for each new child as a concrete form of solidarity.
The Pope encouraged longer-term, family-centric policies to give young families hope and confidence that they will be able to support big families over the years. ‘It is urgent to offer young people the guarantees of a sufficiently stable job, security of having a home, and incentives not to leave the country.’ The Hungarian government followed precisely those policies as an integral part of its recovery programme. In Ireland, many young couples defer marriage and can only dream of owning their own family home. Children, once at the very centre of Ireland’s social economy, are being ‘crowded out’.
The future of Europe is at stake. Ireland’s Europhile dependence and the ‘Hungarian Model’ drawing on a distinctively national as well as European identity, provide two very different trajectories into an uncertain and, for many, fearful future. Christian Democracy, full of hope and practicality, is the key to the future, as it once was to the founders of Europe reborn.
1 Cian Molloy, ‘Royal Irish Academy to Host Lecture on St Columbanus and the Making of Modern Europe’, CatholicIreland.net, 12 Nov. 2018, https://www.catholicireland.net/royal-irish-academy-host-lecture-st-columbanus-making-modern-europe/, accessed 9 March 2021.
2 Thomas Osborne Davis, A Nation Once Again (1844).
3 Philippe Bénéton, Rémi Brague, Chantal Delsol, Roman Joch, András Lánczi, Ryszard Legutko, Pierre Manent, Janne Haaland Matlary, Dalmacio Negro Pavón, Roger Scruton, Robert Spaemann, Bart Jan Spruyt, Matthias Storme, ‘The Paris Statement: A Europe We Can Believe In’, thetrueeurope.eu, accessed 10 Febr. 2021.
4 Lise Hand, ‘The Week Ireland Gave Up Its Sovereignty’, Independent (30 Nov. 2013), https:// www.independent.ie/lifestyle/the-week-ireland-gave-up-its-sovereignty-29796376.html, accessed 21 Jan. 2021
5 Hungary’s Constitution of 2011, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Hungary_2011. pdf, accessed 19 Febr. 2021.
6 Karsten Grabow, ed., ‘Christian Democracy: Principles and Policy-Making’ Konrad-Adenauer- Stiftung e.V., (Berlin, 2011).
7 Jody Corcoran, ‘Austerity Has Failed, Eurozone on Brink as World Crisis Rages’, Independent (7 Aug. 2011), https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/austerity-has-failed-eurozone-on-brink-as- world-crisis-rages-26759083.html.
8 ‘European Stability Mechanism. Enter the Troika: The European Commission, the IMF, the ECB’, https://www.esm.europa.eu/publications/safeguarding-euro/enter-troika-european-commission- imf-ecb, accessed 10 March 2021.
10 Hugh O’Connell, ‘Fianna Fáil Wipe out Marks the End of Political Dynasties’, The Journal (28 Febr. 2011), https://www.thejournal.ie/fianna-fail-wipe-out-marks-the-end-of-political-dynasties- 93293-Feb2011/.
11 Pamela Newenham and Judith Crosbie, ‘IMF Distances Itself from Ashoka Mody Comments on Ireland’, The Irish Times (22 July 2013), https://www.irishtimes.com/business/financial-services/imf- distances-itself-from-ashoka-mody-comments-on-ireland-1.1471321.
12 ‘Houses of the Oireachtas’, Report of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis: Chapter 11: Burden Sharing (Jan. 2016), https://inquiries.oireachtas.ie/banking/volume-1-report/chapter-11/.
13 International Monetary Fund, Hungary: Staff Report for the 2010 Article IV Consultation and Proposal for Post-Program Monitoring (Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, Febr. 2011), https:// www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2011/cr1135.pdf.
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26 O’Brien, ‘Funding Buys Undemocratic Influence’.
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30 Krastev, ‘Depopulation Is Eastern Europe’s Biggest Problem’.
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