A Narrow View of Democracy
“The European Union only knows one kind of democracy, the kind that helped its leaders to power. It rejects all other views and electoral decisions, labeling them antidemocratic. Decisions made by Hungarian or Polish voters are no less democratic than those by French or German voters, and the E.U. still wants to punish governments elected in this way.”
— Gabor Sebes, 64, a retired electrical engineer and local councilor in Budapest.
“After our entry, funds were made available for E.U. objectives, but the immense bureaucracy they entail has spread to the Hungarian administration. On top of that, we are only applying to get our contributions back, not for projects we need, but those determined by the E.U. That’s how many small towns that still have unpaved streets have received colorful fountains. The Orban government is not threatening democracy. It is trying to improve the dysfunctions in the administration and to investigate and punish anomalies.”
— Katalin Mezey, 74, a fiction writer and editor in Budapest.
“A requirement for receiving E.U. money is one that many people in Poland can understand. At the same time, other E.U. countries, including old E.U. members, are suffering from issues of their own (e.g., corruption in Italy and France), and the argument on morals should be used with caution.”
— Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer, 34, an assistant professor at Kozminski University in Warsaw.
“The government dominates the news media, which is quite depressing. It’s impossible to even argue because there is no news, no information. We are constantly confronted with enemy figures, keeping with ‘panem et circenses.’ ”
— Istvan Bende, 32, a conductor of the choir at the National Theater of Pecs, in Pecs, Hungary.
“We used to be enslaved; we used to get orders from Moscow, and we don’t want to get them from Brussels now. Back in 2004, we were joining a union of sovereign states and nations, and now they are trying to change it behind our back. If nothing changes, we will have to say ‘farewell’ to each other. For Poles, freedom is more important than life.”
— Lukasz Wieczorek, 33, a television broadcast engineer in Warsaw.
“I have a lot of friends who have emigrated to the West, mainly to Germany, Austria and the U.K., and the fact that so many people have gone to work abroad has left the society in a numbed state. Also, what many Westerners may not realize is that we all expected our standard of living to rise to the level of at least that of Spain or Italy. This has not happened, and there is a genuine disappointment and resentment present in our society.”
— Mark Kiss, 31, an internal auditor in Szekesfehervar, Hungary.
“We have many friends and relatives who work in the E.U., so we are aware of the prices and wages there. Unfortunately, wages in Hungary are far behind those in the rest of the E.U. I manage 200 people directly and receive around 670 euros [nearly $800] monthly at a state company. My husband is a librarian and earns 370 euros, with consumer prices measuring up to those in the rest of the bloc.”
— Gabriella Pap, 48, a worker at the local public transport company in Pecs, Hungary.
“I was born in 1977, so I remember empty shelves in stores and the gray, sad reality that we used to live in. What we are experiencing now in Poland is beyond comparison with what has been here, say, 10, 20 years ago. We live in a free country. The economy is growing. It is a land of opportunities. The main problem is that you see the growing of the biggest cities and the richest areas while the farms and the people living there stay poor.”
— Kuba Kossak, 40, a film director in Warsaw.
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