Hungary 2002

In 2002, Hungary was a country in transition. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Hungary had begun to embrace democracy and open its economy to the global market. The economy was largely based on industry and agriculture, with exports of food products and manufactured goods playing an important role. Though this period of transition was difficult for many Hungarians, there were signs of progress in some areas. According to computerannals, the country had made strides in reducing poverty levels and improving access to healthcare and education. In 2002, Hungary had a population of 10 million people with an estimated GDP per capita of $12,000 USD. While there were still many challenges ahead for the country, there were also reasons for optimism as evidenced by increased foreign investment and a growing number of new businesses being established within Hungary’s borders.

Yearbook 2002

Hungary. At the New Year, a law came into force that granted temporary work permits and other rights in Hungary to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries. The law was controversial both inside and outside Hungary. The Slovak Government considered that it invaded its sovereignty over its citizens when they were attracted with student aid to schools in Hungary. Instead, the Hungarian spiritual leader in Romania, Bishop László Tökés, noted that the law “has started the reunification of the Hungarian nation without changing borders”. But in negotiations with Romania, the Hungarian government had agreed to extend the rights to all Romanian citizens. That decision received harsh criticism at home, with many Hungarians fearing that poor Romanians would turn in for summer jobs.

According to Countryaah website, national day of Hungary is every October 23. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing party Alliance of Youth Democrats (Fidesz MPP) hoped, however, that the efforts of Hungarian minorities would win nationalist votes in the upcoming parliamentary elections. There was concern that an extremist nationalist party was advancing in public opinion. The Hungarian Socialist Party and the Peace Democratic Alliance were critical of the law and argued that only increased democratization in neighboring countries could solve minority problems.

Hungary Border Countries Map

The election was held in two rounds in April. Fidesz and its alliance partners, the right-middle party MDF, with their 188 seats saw themselves beaten by the Socialists and the Peace Democrats, who together won 198 seats. After a few weeks of negotiations, a center-left government was formed with the socialist Peter Medgyessy as new prime minister. Despite his party color, Medgyessy explained that he intended to continue the market economy reforms with, among other things, privatization of state activities. He also promised to work for Hungary to get EU membership as soon as possible.

During the summer, however, the new head of government ended up in windy weather. The press revealed that Medgyessy had been an officer in the security service for some years during the communist era. Medgyessy confirmed that he was active in counter-espionage but suggested that the secret archives should be opened so that the history of all politicians could be mapped. The debate about the past got hot. Medgyessy remained, while the new opposition leader, Fidesz party leader Zoltan Pokorni, was forced to resign. The reason was the revelation that his father worked as a police informer during the communist regime.

Shortly after Pokorni’s departure, Parliament decided to set up a committee to investigate Prime Minister Medgyessy’s past. Another committee was set up to investigate the background of a few hundred people who have served as ministers or secretary of state since 1990.

At the EU summit in Copenhagen in December, Hungary, together with nine other countries, received the clearance for membership of the Union from 2004.


Fidesz founder in sex scandal

November 29

József Szájer, a Member of the European Parliament who also held leadership positions in the conservative EPP party group, announced that he would leave his seat in Parliament after it emerged that he was suspected of crimes in Belgium. He has violated corona restrictions a few days earlier and is also suspected of drug offenses. What is striking, however, is that he was arrested in connection with what is described by the Belgian media as an orgy in gay circles. Private sexual activities are not punishable, but they are of political importance because Szájer was one of the founders of the Hungarian ruling Fidesz party, which is outspoken against LGBTQ rights (see November 10).

State of emergency until February

November 17

Through a decree, the government extends the state of emergency that prevails (see 10 November). It will apply until 8 February 2021. With the support of the state of emergency, the government can also extend measures such as a ban on meetings and a night curfew that have been introduced in connection with the corona pandemic. According to weekly statistics from the European Infection Control Agency, Hungary is currently one of the EU countries with the largest spread of the sars-cov-2 virus.

Fidesz proposals make it difficult for small parties

November 10

The government, dominated by the Fidesz party, is proposing to change the election laws so that it will be more difficult for small parties to get seats through national co-operation in the next parliamentary elections, 2022. At present, 93 out of 199 seats in parliament are filled through majority elections in one-man constituencies. The new proposal is to raise a threshold in the electoral system: in order to stand in the party election, a party must stand with candidates in at least 50 constituencies, against today’s 27. Negotiations are underway between several opposition parties on whether to join and gather behind a common list for the 2022 election, or stand separately (see also 13 August 2020 and 10 December 2019).

Tightening laws in progress: adoption ban for gay couples

November 10

Same-sex couples should not have the right to adopt, according to a proposal to amend the constitution presented by the ruling Fidesz party. For single people, ministerial consent must be required to carry out an adoption. Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in Hungary, but so far they have had the opportunity to adopt because one person in the couple has been able to become a parent through adoption. In the bill, Fidesz refers to how Christian culture views gender roles. The constitutional amendment is approved by Parliament on 15 December.

State of emergency and coronary restrictions extended

November 10

Gives the government the right to rule by decree for 90 days in order to take action against the new spread of coronavirus (see 3 November); Stricter measures lasting for 30 days come into force.

Student protest moves outdoors

November 10

The students at the SZFE Theater and Film Academy in Budapest end the protest action against the Orbán government that took place inside the school (see 31 August). The decision is made due to the government tightening measures against the corona pandemic, after the spread of infection has picked up again. Under the new restrictions, higher education must now be conducted digitally. The students state that they continue their action outdoors.

EU support is linked to democracy requirements

November 5

Member States must comply with the EU’s rule of law and democracy in order to be able to secure funding from the EU’s large corona support and the EU’s long – term budget. This is the result of a preliminary agreement between the European Parliament and the Member States, which has been represented in the negotiations by Germany as Presidency. The European Parliament has stubbornly refused to approve the contingency plan and long-term budget agreed by the EU’s Heads of State and Government (see 21 July), unless it can be demanded of each Member State. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have opposed such demands, but they do not have the opportunity to stop the agreement, which can be approved by a qualified majority of the Member States. On 16 November, however, Poland and Hungary choose to block the budget and corona aid itself, which must be approved by all EU countries.

Crisis measures against corona spread

November 3

State of emergency and night curfew are introduced with reference to increased spread of the coronavirus sars-cov-2. The government intends to request that Parliament extend the state of emergency by 90 days (see 16 June and 1 September). In total, Hungary has registered 1,973 deaths and the number of patients with covid-19 who need hospital care is increasing.