Koloman Brenner: Fidesz makes Hungary more isolated than ever in the West
In its recent newsletter, the National Self-Government of Germans in Hungary released an in-depth interview with Jobbik MP Koloman Brenner. The MP talked about his decision to join the party, which was not easy for him but Jobbik’s intellectuals introduced him to a “community likeable both professionally and personally”, so he eventually decided to accept former party president Gábor Vona’s invitation and entered the election race under Jobbik’s banner in the town of Sopron in 2018. “As a young man, I still experienced the final years of the single-party system and I never want to live in a society like that again,” the politician explained the moral aspects of his decision, adding that “we’re over a tough and sometimes even filthy campaign”.
As he put it, he is currently involved in leading Jobbik’s intellectual circle where he can rely on his earlier experience, just like in his work as an MP and a member of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, National Cohesion Committee and Autonomy Sub-Committee. Meanwhile, he also remained active as a professor (he teaches at ELTE University’s Institute of Germanic Studies). He talked about his recent political activities at EU level: “As a Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I had the opportunity to make a speech there to publicly call the attention of the president of the Council of Ministers to the matter of national minorities”.
The MP reflected on his activities related to the ethnic minorities living in Hungary as well. Noting that Jobbik was the only political party to “specifically address the issue of Hungary’s ethnic minorities, especially the German community in its election programme”, he added that he would keep striving for “further developing the cultural autonomy” of the German minority. He also identified “revitalizing the German language and culture through education institutions” as his additional goal. That’s why he has urged for a closer cooperation between the National Self-Government of Germans in Hungary and the political parties. “We must identify common goals that we can work side by side for in the future. These goals should go beyond culture, language and education policy and, for example, cover the issues related to the economic development of areas with an ethnic German population in Hungary.” Emphasizing that Jobbik would remain open for such dialogue, he said he was going to soon meet with Olivia Schubert, the president of the National Self-Government of Germans in Hungary.
Talking about German National Minority Advocate Imre Ritter, Mr Brenner remarked he “found it unfortunate” that now when Hungary’s ethnic German community finally got representation in Parliament for the first time in several decades, “the general public interpreted the German representative’s election victory as just another case of Fidesz obtaining one more parliamentary seat”. “I have no problem with Imre Ritter’s political party affiliation but the way it is currently interpreted in Hungary’s public discourse does not have a good impact on the long-term plans of our community,” stated Mr Brenner, expressing his surprise that Mr Ritter voted against putting the debate on joining the European Public Prosecutor’s Office on the Hungarian Parliament’s agenda.
Talking about the Hungarian education system, he said: “Creating modern education must be a key matter for any long-term and well-devised civic policy.” He explained that Jobbik, as a 21st-century party, wanted an education system which focuses on digitalization, teaching the English and the German language as well as business competencies. Jobbik’s politician also expressed the party’s opinion that the fine-tuning of the National Core Curriculum was not enough: regional solutions were needed to solve these problems and increase teachers’ salaries to a level where “the gap between the Hungarian and German average wages is not wider than it was when our country joined the EU.” He believes fewer people would leave Hungary if we made it happen.
According to the MP, many people share the view that the freedom of research and education is in danger while Minister of Innovation László Palkovics, who controls the relevant state funds, “doesn’t really understand” the complexity of sciences and the deeper, long-term correlations of research projects. Regarding Jobbik’s position on the European Union, Mr Brenner stated that “Jobbik is not against the EU. Although there used to be some critical factions within the party, Jobbik has been supportive of common European values while, of course, it keeps voicing critical views of certain tendencies in the EU.” Jobbik’s MP says that major decisions are being made on the EU’s future but it still remains an open question if things move toward a continuous integration or a two-speed Europe.
He suggested it was very important for Hungary to find a favourable position within the EU and to participate in the reform processes. Pointing out the risks involved in Fidesz pursuing a different agenda, he noted that Hungary had been more isolated by Western partners than ever before. “Jobbik’s goal is to trigger a dialogue of equal sides between Western and Eastern Central Europe so that we could be involved in shaping our common and, hopefully, better future as well,” Mr Brenner concluded.
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