From the Archives: The “Let’s Stop Brussels!” National Consultation

LET’S STOP BRUSSELS! (photo: cyberpress.hu)

The Orbán government conducted its sixth National Consultation, entitled “Let’s Stop Brussels!” (Állítsuk meg Brüsszelt!), in April and May 2017.

In these National Consultations, the Orbán government mails questionnaires on various topics to all of the approximately eight million adult citizens of Hungary. Respondents can return these questionnaires postage-free to the Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office, which assumed the duty of conducting the National Consultations from the Prime Ministry in October 2015.

The Orbán government uses the results of these National Consultation questionnaires, which are phrased in order to ensure that an overwhelming majority of respondents will select the government-supported answer, in order to demonstrate that its policies reflect the popular will of the citizens of Hungary (see National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism).

Questionnaire  

Questionnaire (click to enlarge)

The “Let’s Stop Brussels!” National Consultation questionnaire consisted of the following six questions:

1. Brussels is preparing to make a dangerous move. It wants to force us to annul the utility-fee cuts.

What do you think Hungary should do?

a. We should defend the utility-fee cuts. We should insist that Hungarian energy prices be determined in Hungary.

b. We should accept the plan of Brussels and rely on large companies to determine utility-fee prices.

2. Terrorist attacks have followed one after another in Europe over the recent period. In spite of this, Brussels wants to force Hungary to receive illegal immigrants.

What do you think Hungary should do?

a. In the interest of the security of the Hungarian people, illegal immigrants should be placed under supervision until the authorities can make a decision regarding their cases.

b. We should permit illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary.

3. By today it has become apparent that, in addition to human traffickers, certain international organizations have encouraged illegal immigrants on their way to Hungary to engage in unlawful activity.

What do you think Hungary should do?

a. Activities that assist illegal immigration—such as human trafficking and the popularization of illegal immigration—should be punished.

b. We should accept that there exist certain international organizations that can encourage the circumvention of Hungarian laws without consequences.

4. More and more foreign-supported organizations are operating in Hungary with the objective of interfering in the internal affairs of our homeland in a non-transparent way. Their operations could endanger our independence.

What do you think Hungary should do? 

a. We should compel them to register themselves, disclosing the country or organization on behalf of which they are functioning and the objective of their operations.

b. We should permit them to continue to conduct their risky activities without supervision.

5. Job creation has been successful in Hungary over the past years because we took our own pathway. However, Brussels is attacking the job-creation measures.

What do you think Hungary should do?

a. We Hungarians should continue to decide regarding the future of the Hungarian economy.

b. Let Brussels decide what should be done in the economy.

6. Hungary has committed itself to cut taxes. Brussels is now attacking our homeland because of this.

What do you think Hungary should do?

a. We should insist that we Hungarians are able to decide on tax cuts.

b. We should accept that Brussels dictate the magnitude of taxes.

Letter of Introduction

Introduction letter (click to enlarge)

The National Consultation questionnaire included the following letter of introduction from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán:

Esteemed Compatriots!

I am writing to you because we again stand before very big decisions. Brussels has come forward with several plans that endanger our national independence and the security of the country.

The bureaucrats want to force us to annul the utility-fee cuts and to receive illegal immigrants. If it was up to them, they would deprive us of the opportunity to decide ourselves regarding tax cuts and the means of job creation. Because the government would like greater transparency regarding the issue of foreign-supported agent organizations, we can expect heavy attacks in this domain as well.  

We must stop Brussels! We will not permit them to make decisions above our heads. We must defend our borders, while we must prevent settlement [of migrants in Hungary]. We also insist that we keep the regulation of taxes, wages and utility fees in our own hands. We must make the networks sustained from foreign money transparent as well.

The help of the Hungarian people is needed in order for us to successfully hinder the dangerous plans of Brussels. This is why I am asking that You to stand up for national independence as well, assist the government in its struggle and to fill out the enclosed questionnaire.

Hungary is depending on You!

Sincerely,

Viktor Orbán

The prime minister of Hungary

European Commission Rebuttal

On April 27, 2017, the European Commission (EC) published a document entitled “Facts Matter. European Commission Responds to Hungarian National Consultation.” In this document, the EC refuted the primary claims in all six questions posed in the National Consultation (see source in English).

Results and Cost of the Questionnaire

In late June 2017, Prime Minister Orbán announced that nearly 1.7 million Hungarians had returned the National Consultation Questionnaire (source in Hungarian). Also in late June, Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office State Secretary Csaba Dömötör announced that 99 percent of respondents had chosen the government-supported answer (answer a.) to the National Consultation questions (source in Hungarian).

The government paid slightly less than 950 million forints (3.1 million euros) to print and mail the eight million National Consultation questionnaires (source in Hungarian).

Publicity Campaigns

Let’s Not Allow George Soros to Have the Last Laugh! (photo: Szombat Online)

The Orbán government conducted three publicity campaigns in connection to the “Let’s Stop Brussels!” National Consultation featuring the following slogans that appeared on billboards and advertising columns throughout Hungary as well as in the country’s broadcast, print and digital media: in April and May, Let’s Stop Brussels!; in June, The Most Successful National Consultation of All Time. Hungary Is a Strong and Proud European Country (Minden idők legsikeresebb Nemzeti Konzultációja. Magyarország erős és büszke európai ország); and in July, Let’s Not Allow George Soros to Have the Last Laugh! (Ne hagyuk, hogy Soros György nevessen a végén!).

Cost of the Publicity Campaigns

According to data from the Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office, the government paid 7.25 billion forints (23.5 million euros) for the three publicity campaigns it conducted in connection to the “Let’s Stop Brussels!” National Consultation from early April until the middle of July (source in Hungarian).

Oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros (photo: Népszava Online)

Media that operate under the ownership of Orbán-government oligarchs Lőrinc Mészáros, Andy Vajna and Gábor Széles generated nearly three billion forints from the publication and broadcast of this National Consultation publicity (Mészáros 2.35 billion forints; Vajna 512 million forints; and Széles 107 million forints).

Furthermore, media that operate under the ownership of people with indirect or direct ties to the Orbán government generated slightly over 700 million forints in revenue from the publication and broadcast of such publicity (Ádám Matolcsy, the son of National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy, 380 million forints; Árpád Habony, Prime Minister Orbán’s chief strategic advisor, 261 million forints; and Mária Schmidt, director of the state-supported House of Terror, 62 million forints).

The print, broadcast and digital media operating under the ownership of the above six people thus received just over half of the 7.25 billion forints that the Orbán government spent on publicity for its “Let’s Stop Brussels!” National Consultation.

Total Cost

The Orbán government spent a total of 8.2 billion forints (26.6 million euros) on the “Let’s Stop Brussels” National Consultation.

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