Ten years ago on 1 May 2004 the European Union admitted ten new member states, among them the Visegrád Four: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The ten expected much from this large-scale enlargement but they faced numerous challenges too. The Central European University and the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation held a two-day conference to summarise the results so far and predict what to expect next.
Topics for discussion included “Advantages and costs of the EU”, “Social changes”, “Migration”, “Euro-scepticism” and “Expectations for the future”, in the context of the Union that unites more than 500 million citizens in 28 countries.
Euro-scepticism is an especially interesting topic right before the upcoming European Parliament elections, which will be held on 25 May in Hungary. Many people confuse this topic with the phenomenon where nationalist, populist and euro-sceptic parties mingle without distinction. However, scepticism is a possibility for criticism and a necessary tool for the integration process and keeping the EU democratic. This is why Kai-Olaf Lang, research associate of the Scientific and Political Foundation, demanded that the destructive term Euro-scepticism should be replaced by the term sceptical Europeans.
The new EU member states especially must fight the term Euro-Scepticism, which is experienced in Hungary too. Unlike the founding states, the new EU countries were promised more security, stability and, last but not least, Western standards of living. These hopes were deeply shaken by the euro crisis. Borbála Göncz, a sociologist, said that in Hungary the attitude towards the EU had been much more optimistic in 2002. “This optimism has drastically decreased until the year 2010,” she said.
There is a similar trend in many countries and Hungary is certainly not the most EU-sceptical member state. Alina Bârgâoanu, a Romanian political scientist, referred to an article published by the Financial Times about the EU headed “United in Hostility”. Zoltán Pogátsa reminded the audience that the EU is still very far from reaching political unity through consensus on basic values. In this context the question of democratic legitimisation comes into focus as well.
This is why a high voter participation rate is of importance on 25 May. The rule for EU elections is: every EU citizen has the right to vote and it does not matter in which member state the citizen is residing. Registration in such cases should be completed by 9 May online. To register you need a personal ID and a Hungarian address card. Website voteinhungary.net has information about how foreign EU citizens can participate in the EU election in Hungary.