By Livia Durdia
The transition to modern Western capitalism from Soviet-style communism has been risky and difficult for most states in the Balkans (and larger Eastern Europe) which face large levels of economic and political instability including poverty, unemployment, migration out of country, and, of course, corruption.
In response to said corruption in Hungary, the U.S. recently declared six Hungarian public officials suspected of corruption ineligible for visas. According to the New York Times, “It also comes less than a month after President Obama, in a speech before the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, pointedly included Hungary among a list of countries where repressive governments silence dissent and ‘increasingly target civil society.’”
The goal of such actions is supposedly to ensure the civil liberties of the Hungarian people by punishing the corrupt hungarian officials for their corruption by slapping them on the wrist.
But these actions are useless in combating the corruption in Hungary, since their main goal is to protect Americans, who, of course, are not the ones mainly affected by the rampant corruption; the actual Hungarian people are. Making public officials ineligible for American visas has little to almost no effect on those most affected by the corruption. The main goal, guised under the notion of protecting Hungarian civil liberties, is, of course, to ensure and protect American interests.
America has a long pattern of making sure to focus on and “help” issues that “other” parts of the world face (usually through military intervention) while ignoring the pressing and dangerous phenomena facing those residing with the borders of the continental U.S. Yes, corruption in Hungary is an issue and of course, civil liberties are being threatened in [insert any nation-state ever here] but when are we going to talk about lobbying and placing private money into American politics?
And when is America going to join Hungary on that list Obama mentioned of repressive countries that target civil society for human rights violations (documented by Amnesty International) in Ferguson, Missouri?
Hungary suffers from a difficult transition to free-market capitalism and thus suffers the consequences of instability, yet America has had 300+ years to form a stable economic system (mostly built through slave labor). Yet corruption occurs here too, so what’s America’s excuse?
The economic history of Hungary needs to be analyzed well, along with the general history of the region if the world wants to witness an end to these consequences of instability (corruption being one). No one wants to criticize capitalism in this context, but criticism is necessary if we are to truly understand the economic fragility that occurred in many Eastern European states after the collapse of communism and the nuances in economic development.
Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, is in power because of these capitalist policies. Corruption needs to be swiftly dealt with, but the Balkan states can not be judged or held to a “European” standard of development and progress due to not only the constant dispossession of the Balkan states by the West but also differences in history and aforementioned development. Hungarians deserve better than a pseudo-intellectual analysis of corruption in their country, and of course, better than pseudo-action taken against it.