The European Conservative: Hungary is revered as a conservative safe space but must continue to repel waves of liberal ideology

By Thomas Brooke
8 Min Read

Hungary is a political safe space for conservatives disillusioned with their own government’s unwavering support for progressive ideology and must continue to fight for the promotion of conservatism in Europe, writes Sergio Velasco, a Spanish political scientist and analyst of Hungarian and Polish politics.

In an essay published this week in The European Conservative, Velasco sought to identify the reasons why conservatives from across the world have chosen to find refuge in the land-locked European nation and spoke with several prominent conservatives who believe Hungary “offers them a space in which they can voice their convictions without constantly being hounded.”

Velasco himself relocated from Catalonia to Budapest last year after a couple of previous trips to the city during which he fell in love. He revered the “young native couples with children, and pro-family and pro-life messages,” and claimed the reality of the Hungarian way of life “disproved the lies told about the country by the Western media.”

In his essay, he talks about how after making a new life in Hungary, he wanted to understand why others, in particular those with conservative values, had chosen to do the same, so he spoke with a number of expats about their own experiences.

Reality in Hungary doesn’t correlate with the U.S. narrative

He first spoke with Rod Dreher, a prominent U.S. writer who remains the editor-at-large of the American Conservative and who moved to Budapest in 2021 after being offered a paid fellowship by the Danube Institute think tank.

Dreher told Velasco it took no time at all for him to realize the country is a far cry from that which “the U.S. media and ruling class academics say exists.”

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“It’s a normal country, yet defending normality causes the elites to denounce you as a hater, a bigot, a bully, and the rest. It’s very effective in the case of Hungary, too, because few people outside Hungary speak the language. Hungary is at the mercy of what the foreign media say about it,” Dreher added.

Dreher spoke positively of his Hungarian experience from the outset, telling the New Yorker in September 2021: “I was there about ten days before I realized that 80, 90 percent of the American narrative about the country just isn’t true.”

He has praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his unwavering belief “in national sovereignty, not globalism,” depicting the Hungarian leader as a politician who is “not opposed to transnational alliances and organizations, but believes that it’s important for people to keep and defend their own traditions and ways of life.”

However, speaking to Velasco, Dreher insists the picture of ultra-conservatism used by Western media to depict Hungary isn’t the reality on the ground.

“Hungary has a reputation for being conservative, but I’m not sure that is so accurate. Hungary is not a religious country, for example. And, of course, there are lots of liberals here. The point is that while the rest of the West has lost its collective mind, Hungary (and Poland) have stayed sane,” he told Velasco.

He further encouraged conservatives who have become disenfranchised by “the lies that their government and the left-dominated institutions in their countries demand” to “consider what Hungary has to offer.”

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Velasco also spoke to Rodrigo Ballester, a Spanish lawyer and former EU official who has headed up the Center For European Affairs at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest since January 2021.

Ballester, who speaks five languages and has lived in a multitude of European nations during his educational studies and professional career, explained he moved to Hungary for family reasons, “but there was also a desire for a change of scenery after 17 years in Belgium.”

He revealed he was intrigued to move to a country whose media reputation preceded it as “the opposite end of the reality that I knew,” having lived in progressive nations including Spain, Belgium and Germany.

Ballester stated that not only is Hungary “a country of patriots, something that has been lost in Western Europe,” it is also a country that is moving forward economically. He lamented Western European nations “whose social fabric is increasingly dynamited and whose only form of government maintains the status quo,” and praised Hungary where he says “economic progress is palpable.”

Hungary provides a palpable sense of security

Another observation made by the Spaniard is the “very high impression of security” compared to that felt in Brussels and when “traveling in France.”

The concept of security was recently acknowledged in an article published by French news outlet Boulevard Voltaire, which explored why significantly higher numbers of French expats are choosing Central European nations such as Hungary as a destination to relocate. Many respondents cited a greater feeling of security as a primary reason.

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“Now, I no longer worry about my children. Aged 23 and 20, they study in Budapest, a quiet city, where they are safe. It changed my life!” one respondent told the publication.

The numbers stack up. According to the Numbeo Quality of Life index, France lies second-to-last on the safety index at just 44.7, better only than Belarus. In contrast, Czechia (73.4) has one of the highest ratings on the continent, while Poland (70.8), Slovakia (68.6), and Hungary (66.1) also post highly respectable scores.

Velasco lastly spoke with legal and political theorist Gladden Pappin, a U.S. university professor who is currently a visiting senior fellow at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest. Again, a sense of tranquility and normality found wanting in his homeland drove his decision to relocate.

“Hungary is a peaceful and pleasant country in ways that, regrettably, (you can) no longer obtain in many major American cities: peaceful, because Hungarian society has secured the really important things such as family and work; and pleasant, because Hungary is on the upswing, recovering its identity and sense of mission.”

He contrasted this experience with Western European nations and many cities in the United States where, he claimed, “the peace and unity of society is being destroyed.”

The European Conservative essay concluded that Hungary can continue to be revered by conservatives around the world as a political and literal safe space for years to come, but must continue to unashamedly champion conservative values and keep fighting back against the wave of liberal progressives sweeping the continent.

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