European Union Net Funding to Hungary, 2011–2016

The European Union provided Hungary with 26.54 billion euros in net funding (gross funding from the EU budget minus contributions to the EU budget) during the first six years in which the second and third Orbán governments were in power for the entire year (2011–2016).

Hungary’s average population was 9.9 million in the years 2011–2016 (source in English). Hungary thus received per-capita net funding of 2,681 euros over this six-year period.

Source: European Commission data on “operating budget balance” for the years 2007–2013 and 2014–2020.

Hungary received the highest amount of per-capita net European Union funding among all 28 EU member states in the years 2011–2016. During this six-year period, 17 member states of the European Union were net recipients of funding from the EU (see table below), while 11 member states were net financial contributors to the EU.

Sources: European Commission data on “operating budget balance” for the years 2007–2013 and 2014–2020; and Trading Economics population data.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has claimed that European Union funding to Hungary serves to counterbalance the profit that Western companies derive as the result of the opening of the country’s markets to them. Prime Minister Orbán said during an interview published in the pro-government daily newspaper Magyar Idők on December 24, 2015 (source in Hungarian):

It is worthwhile to clarify whether we are really getting their [the European Union’s] money. After forty years of communism, central Europe undertook competition with the capital-rich big Western companies. We opened our markets in such a way as to provide Western companies with an enormous advantage and they were able to gain profit-generating positions in our economies that we could never acquire in theirs. In spite of the legal possibility of competition, the difference in the scale of capital has long made this an illusion. We get the sums [of money] that we get in order to counterbalance this. Moreover, the business profit that leaves Hungary for the West reaches the magnitude of the amount of support that arrives from there.

Germany was the greatest net financial contributor to the European Union in the years 2011–2016. During this period, Germany made a per-capita net financial contribution of 945 euros to the EU (see sources A, B and C in English).

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Seen from the Corner of Fremont and Cedar

FreCedSeen from the corner of Fremont and Cedar political events in Hungary seem so distant, yet so much clearer than they do from inside the country.

Especially when one has so much time and emotion invested in the non-stop series of conflicts that embody the Orbán era, the significance of every episode in this sad pageant of futile defiance is magnified to such preposterous lengths that all context is lost when viewed from up close.

The landslide Fidesz victory in local elections, the U.S. travel ban scandal, the mass demonstrations against Orbán’s proposed Internet tax: seen from Budapest, vastly important, self-contained events; seen from a small town in the Midwestern United States, constituent elements of a greater whole, mile posts along Hungary’s pathway from the liberal-democratic West toward the authoritarian East.

The heightened sense of proportion that comes with distancing oneself from the object under consideration. Distance needed in order to contribute constructively to an understanding and—perhaps even—resolution of the problem.

But it is so exciting to be there in person. And this may be the central meaning of it all: Hungarians are just too high-strung and bored with continuity to bear the tedium of stability.

As Imre Kertész, the Jewish Hungarian author of the Nobel Prize-winning novel Fatelessness, said with regard to the upheaval stemming from the Orbán government’s conflict with Europe: “Nothing new. No problem. And no solution because there is no problem” (see Fateful Endings).

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