5 months ago
A recent survey of the Nézőpont Institute concluded that, while there is no full consensus about the global migration agreement in the UN, the people of the Visegrád countries are on the same page as their political leaders, meaning that they refuse migration. Good evening, welcome. A phone survey carried out for the Magyar Idők daily newspaper showed that out of 53 million people in the V4 countries, 36 million refuse the EU’s quota system, and 41 million people are unsatisfied with Brussels’ immigration policy. In addition, more than 30 million people support the Hungarian border fence. We will discuss the details with Dániel Nagy, a senior researcher at the Nézőpont Institute. Good evening, and thank you for accepting our invitation.
You completed this survey in all four of the Visegrád countries during the fall. What was the focus of the research and what are its main conclusions?
Greetings to the viewers. The issue of immigration was basically one of the major pillars of the research. As for the background of the research, we involved local research companies in each country to realize the research. The samples consisted of 1000 people per country and were representative of the population of each given country. The issue of immigration brought together the V4 politically, so we were interested in whether this unity is perceivable on a social level as well. The research showed that the common basis is absolutely there. As you said in the introduction, the population definitely refuses the immigrant quota and even more Brussels current ideas on immigration. The Hungarian fence on the border is an alternative solution; the majority of the population in the V4 countries supports that.
Let’s talk about the details. The most significant decisions within the issue of migration have recently been the UN’s migration pact and the EU’s humanitarian visa. Last week the EU passed an initiative that wants to introduce the latter. Did your research touch upon these two topics?
These decisions happened after the survey had taken place. Basically the current leadership of the EU is trying to do everything to make the EP and other EU bodies facilitate immigration. The humanitarian visa is also called a migrant visa, depending on one’s attitude towards migration. The same dilemma is perceivable when it comes to differentiating between migrants and refugees. The bottom line is that the EU has a pro-immigration attitude, while the V4 are definitely against immigration. The research showed that the V4’s anti-immigration policies enjoy the support of the population. The ratio of those refusing the pro-migration acts, be it quota, humanitarian visa, or migration pact, is between 70 and 90%. So, at least 2/3 of the population, but often 80% or more, refuse these ideas.
We are showing these percentages in graphs. Now that you mentioned the quota, let us stop here for a moment. A two-day summit of the heads of state and government of the EU countries took place last week in Brussels, during which President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani again raised the idea of an obligatory migrant quota. According to your survey, 35 million people in Central Europe are against this idea. The topic keeps coming back to the agenda of the EU: obligatory, voluntary, and now again obligatory quotas. It seems like Brussels cannot come to an agreement. What will be the consequences?
The political elite in Brussels faces a dilemma here. They are not sure how much they should push their agenda, because they are aware that big political changes can happen after the EP elections next May. Therefore, they might be trying to realize all the measures that are in their interest. This is the reason why they are trying to bring back the quota on the agenda, and why they initiated the humanitarian visa, because these could be their achievements and these are the issues that represent their political interest. It seems though that the political consensus formed by the V4 is spreading to Western Europe as well. For example, according to a recent survey, a Spanish anti-immigration party, the Vox, is at 10% popularity after the Andalusian elections. This shows that parties coming out of nowhere can really quickly become popular. Of course, 12% is not enough to change the world, but if these parties get to 20%, that can mean a significant change in a country like Spain and can result in huge changes in the EP next year.
And, we have seen that the previous years’ national elections witnessed the sudden success of parties coming out of nowhere, so the 20% can be achieved easily. It is not only the issue of immigration that bonds the V4 together, but also the matter of the next cycle’s EU budget of 2021–2027. The Visegrád 4 acted together against the decreasing of the cohesion funds. The politicians of the Hungarian government both in the EU and at home consistently reject the cutting down of the cohesion funds. What are the main arguments concerning the next cycle’s budget?
We organized a conference and presented the research results in each of the V4 countries. At these events, we received feedback that there should be another issue besides immigration that holds the V4 together. The EU cohesion funds could be a topic that fulfills this role; the V4 could act together politically to keep the cohesion funds for the next budget cycle. From the perspective of society it is evident that it is in the region’s interest to receive more development funds in the future. It is true that in the last cycle, the Central European region was the motor of the European economy, but it was partly due to the cohesion funds. But, regardless, the EU should not punish this region for having performed well economically.
It is also questionable whether the cutting down of cohesion funds would be legitimate, since the V4 countries did not reach the 80% in their performance levels. Some argue that the decrease in the cohesion funds is necessary because of Brexit. Of course Brexit is a huge deal, but is it really enough to cut down the funds, or is it more of a political pressure for the Eastern European region?
During the conferences where we published our research results, it often came up that Western Europe does not really understand why the Central European countries’ leaders are so brave. They probably do not want to see the leaders of the region, who are utilizing their increased popularity based on economic progress, standing up for their interests in the future, neither in the issue of immigration nor in another topic that could be a common ground for these countries. So, I think that political pressure is definitely the right expression here.
Can the V4’s cooperation achieve actual results in the matter of the cohesion funds, or does the alliance have more of a symbolic significance?
There must be a very strong political will. The economic, cultural, and geographical environments are very different in these countries. Therefore, the interests are very diverse.
Slovakia is especially very different.
Yes. If there is a political will, then it can happen. But, it was already very unique that there was such a strong common platform on the issue of immigration. The four governments are represented in four different political groups in the European Parliament: the Slovaks are with the Social Democrats, the Czechs with the ALDE, the Polish with the ECR, and the Hungarians with the EPP. So, it was quite unique that they could agree on a matter. Future cooperation in any matter is dependent on political will. In my opinion, Hungary and Poland are committed to act jointly, but the Czech Republic and Slovakia are weaker members of the alliance, even though there are positive signs for the cooperation.
Dániel Nagy, thank you for accepting our invitation.
The UN’s climate change conference took place last week in Katowice, Poland. The attending countries’ representatives adopted the rulebook of the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, decisions on the most important issues, such as the modification and acceleration of the measures against global climate change, or to what extent the countries are willing to reduce their emissions, were not adopted. In his opening speech, UN Secretary António Guterres said that the time of everlasting negotiations is over, and now actions are needed.
“We are in trouble. Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late. For many people, regions, and even countries, this is already a matter of life and death. This meeting is the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed. It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption. If we fail, the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt, coral will bleach and then die, the oceans will rise, more people will die from air pollution, water scarcity will plague a significant proportion of humanity, and the cost of disasters will skyrocket. Last year, I visited Barbuda and Dominica, which were devastated by hurricanes. The destruction and suffering I saw was heart breaking. That story is repeated almost daily somewhere in the world. These emergencies are preventable.”
Diána Ürge-Vorsatz, a climate expert, is in our studio. Welcome.
Greetings to the viewers.
Almost every report on the climate change conference notes that it ended with a semi success. Let us clarify briefly what decisions were made at the conference and about which the issues the countries are still in disagreement.
The major aim of the conference was to adopt the rulebook of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Although the Paris Agreement was a great success, it was only a framework, so the details needed to be worked out. It was a huge concern whether the countries would be able to come to an agreement, since there are serious differences between them. I think that it is a great success that eventually the countries were able to come to a consensus and in the last moment they were even able to agree to not form two groups with distinct rules based on a country’s level of development. I think it is important to emphasize that the miracle of the Paris Agreement became a real miracle through the Katowice conference, and now it really has the chance to be effective.
Can it be effective if it remains theoretical? I mean, we all know that there are serious economic and political interests that withhold the implementation. What does its actual implementation depend upon?
I think that many parts of it already started to be realized, and, in addition, several social, economic, and political forces are pushing it through. Of course there are some economic forces, and, as a result of those, some political forces, that try to pull the process back, so these interests are constantly going against each other. However, I think that the majority of the world now realizes that we cannot procrastinate actions anymore. This is not about polar bears, not even about our grandchildren, but about us, right now.
To what extent do people realize that the climate change affects us? We often perceive the problem to be far away from us, but in fact it is getting closer and closer, and we only have 12 years left to make a change. The other question concerns economic and political interests. I read that at the climate change conference sponsored by coal industrial companies, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia, and the United States blocked the adoption of the report prepared by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. One of the editors of the report said that this was a shame. What do you think? To what extent do people realize the importance of climate change?
I think that globally 70% of people are aware of the fact that this problem significantly affects their lives. “Luckily” there are some people who are not aware of the problem, and I say “luckily” because it means that the effects of climate change are not yet perceivable in those cohorts of society—they do not feel that it affects their everyday life, business, and future. In Hungary, we are fortunate enough to be relatively protected from the most disastrous climate catastrophes. There are many countries where 10–20% of the GNP was lost due to a climate catastrophe just this year. These are events, such as hurricanes or the California wildfire, in which entire cities can be destroyed. Unfortunately, these tragedies are more and more frequent. We are not completely spared in Hungary, either. The Danube was measured at a record low level this year. As a result, the atomic power plant in Paks had to be in standby mode and crisis measures had to be taken. At the same time, the Danube has flooded several times over the last decade to levels that were unseen for 100 years. So, these extremes are more and more frequent in Hungary as well.
If we consider the European context, migration has been the most pressing problem in recent years, and climate change has an effect on migration as well, especially on migration from the African continent. Even larger crowds will leave their countries because of famine and water shortages in the future.
Absolutely. Climate change has been an important factor of migration, since those regions where migrants come from have been affected by long lasting droughts, and, as a result, food and produce are less available. Of course, the effects of climate catastrophes are even more severe in politically unstable regions; the shortage of food and water can provoke emigration waves.
The repost of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that humanity has 12 years left to act and to find a solution to climate change, and to reduce pollutant emissions by 50% globally. Do you agree with this statement? Do we have a little over a decade left to act?
Unfortunately, yes. I was part of the editorial of the report. So, yes, the conclusion is true.
Hungary was not praised for another reason. The climate change performance indexes were published, and Hungary finished in 42nd place in carbon dioxide emissions, which is worse than it previously was. Critics said that Hungary’s step backwards is due to the fact that the most important renewable energy source is biomass burning, that the use of wind energy is basically prohibited, and that there is no appropriate plan neither to switch to renewable energies nor for the elimination of coal usage. Do you agree with these criticisms, and does the government have any intent to introduce changes regarding these matters? This 42nd place sounds bad.
I think that problems can be detected in every country. There is not a single country that performs greatly in every respect. Even Germany, which is the leading country in the EU in climate protection, struggles with its automobile and coal industries. I think that Hungary performs much better than Germany. Even though our emissions have grown recently, they are still much lower than they were at the end of the ‘80s. Besides that, Hungary produces clean energy in significant amounts with the atomic plant, and the use of renewable energies has also begun. As far as I know, there are plans to tackle the aforementioned problems, but I also know that parts of these plans are not public yet, so I would not like to talk about them. I think that Hungary is doing certain things, but it is true that we could do much more. In my opinion, the most could be done in the building sector, and that would be the most beneficial for the population as well. It would be very important to do extensive renovations, because that way we could improve our energy deficiency and at the same time we could help disadvantaged families with their utilities. There are a lot of modern apartments in Hungary that have basically no heating costs, and that is beneficial for the climate change as well.
And obviously, the population’s environmental consciousness is important; it would be helpful if we average people would take this issue more seriously.
Diána Ürge-Vorsatz, thank you for being with us today, and we thank our viewers, too. We will be back in a week. Goodbye.