Summary and Keywords
Hungary became a member of the European Union (EU) alongside nine other, mainly East-Central European (ECE) countries in 2004. Although Hungary was one of the leading candidates from the former Soviet bloc to join the EU after the transition in 1989–1990, this positive view and the advantage that the country enjoyed seemed to gradually disappear by the mid-2000s. Hungarian experience with the EU is quite ambivalent. Economically speaking, on the one hand there is a slow but steady convergence to the EU average, which is largely due to the net beneficiary status of the country within the Community, and employment levels have increased considerably. On the other hand, the Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) point to shortcomings related to competitiveness, and labor productivity, which indicate some missed opportunities. Similarly, although budgetary deficit and public debt have been under control lately, sustainability concerns still remain. Additionally, even though the country’s prospects to join the common currency area are quite promising, political willingness is still lacking to make a lasting commitment to the Euro. While the socio-economic expectations of EU membership before accession were quite high and rather unrealistic, although economic growth decreased the level of overall poverty, socioeconomic inequalities have increased lately because of government policies. As far as politics is concerned, even the consensus of the political elite to support liberal democracy as a political system and further integration of the EU as a policy strategy have been questioned by the main governing party lately. Instead, a more Eurosceptic tone and an incremental democratic decline characterizes everyday politics, which has led to recurring criticism within the Community, and the eventual triggering of an Article 7 Procedure.
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