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Hungary passed a law that is viewed by the EU Commission to "discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation":

Hungary on Wednesday rejected a demand from the European Commission and many EU lawmakers to repeal new legislation banning schools from using materials deemed to promote homosexuality.

I guess that this conflict is no surprise to anyone considering the EU's values and the content of the law. I am wondering why to provoke a direct conflict like this which might lead to significant delays in receiving money from the Commission:

EU lawmakers urged the Commission not to release to Hungary funds earmarked for supporting its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic if they are to contribute to Budapest's anti-LGBT+ agenda or before it can ensure solid anti-fraud protection.

I am asking this because I am also considering Romania's case:

the Romanian Constitutional Court ruled that the state must grant residency rights to the same-sex partners of European Union citizens. This came after the aforementioned couple applied for recognition with the court following the ECJ ruling the previous month. As of March 2021, Romania has yet to implement the verdict by granting Coman's partner a residence permit

Romania avoided a direct conflict with the EU Commission related to LGBT+ rights, while still not providing many rights for this community. Why did Hungary not choose a similar way (i.e. less confrontational, virtually no financial risk)?

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Perhaps because the posters demonizing Soros were getting old, as an election issue motivating the base. The Hungarian government seems fully intent on riding on this issue in the next elections.

Hungary’s law affecting LGBT people will be accompanied by a national referendum ahead of elections on the availability of gender-change procedures to children and on sexual education in schools. Szijjarto said the referendum will provide “strong argumentation in the debates” with the EU over the law, and a mandate from voters for the government to hold strong on its policies.

“The best munition a government can have during such a debate,” the minister said, “is the clear expression of the will of the people.”

The reason for betting on this seems to be that--despite the more liberal laws that in some of its neighbors (that were somehow passed in [more distant?] the past)--the Hungarian population is still rather conservative on such issues. E.g. on

  • "Percentage of people who agree or disagree with the following statement: "Gay, lesbian and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people," by country", Romania was at 38% agree, 54% disagree; Hungary 48% agree, 46% disagree, while Germany was at 88% agree, 9% disagree.

  • "Percentage of people who agree or disagree with the following statement: "Do you think that transgender or transsexual persons should be able to change their civil documents to match their inner gender identity?," by country", Romania was at 20% agree, 66% disagree; Hungary 16% agree, 72% disagree; Germany 70% agree, 17% disagree.

  • More than half of Hungarians (55 per cent) disagree with the statement that there is nothing wrong with same-sex sexual relations, while only 24 per cent of EU citizens think the same. Same-sex marriage is rejected by 61 per cent of the Hungarian population, and by 26 per cent of people in the EU on average

It's also not an inconsisten position for Orban's party, given the past track record in the area:

Under the socialist government in 2009, Fidesz voted against the legal introduction of registered partnerships for same-sex couples. [...]

Following Fidesz’s return to power in 2010, it introduced a new Fundamental Law (or constitution) for Hungary in 2011, written exclusively by governmental politicians. This document gave a statutory definition and role to marriage and family, asserting that, “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage or the relationship between parents and children.” 

In 2018, Fidesz terminated the Gender Studies Department of the largest Hungarian University. Around the same time, the party also heavily attacked gender and queer studies in the process of “lex CEU” (modifications to Hungary’s law on higher education).

With an amendment to the constitution in 2020, Fidesz expanded the original paragraph on marriage and family with one unambiguous sentence: “The mother is a female/woman, the father is a male/man.” They also added a new paragraph to fundamental children’s rights: “Hungary shall protect the right of children to a self-identity corresponding to their sex at birth and shall ensure an upbringing for them that is in accordance with the values based on the constitutional identity and Christian culture of our country.”

In May 2020, Fidesz rolled back transgender rights by banning changes to gender on official documents. In December, the government permanently excluded same-sex couples from adopting children.

So while the EU may be in shock about the latest Hungarian law on LGBT, it is really a part of an obvious trend.

As for a slightly more speculative reason why turn up the heat on this: the party & president in power in Poland apparently have recently had electoral success with their plank of calling LGBT "not people [but] an ideology even more destructive than communism", although the Polish equivalent to Hungary's latest law is just being debated in the Polish parliament, this late October. It's interesting that in Poland Duda/PiS not only declared LGBT an ideology, but an ideology of "foreign import".

By the time the Hungarian law was passed this summer, neither Hungary nor Poland had suffered any truly consequential blowback from the EU, as far I can remember, despite repeated snubs to Brussels on various issues. Whenever Brussels talked of withholding some funds, Hungarian government politicians openly talked of "Huxit" etc., or more concretely vetoed EU budgets in the Council, basically daring the EU to a chicken game. Legal threats from Brussels to cut off funds were basically continuously postponed.

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  • Again, that does not answer the question. Is there a Romanian Soros?
    – markvs
    Nov 1 '21 at 5:51
  • @markvs Yes, Soros was demonized also in Romania (e.g. paid protesters and other non-sense like this). However, this narrative does not seem to be used anymore in Romania.
    – Alexei
    Nov 1 '21 at 9:36
  • @Alexei: So what does it have to do with the question?
    – markvs
    Nov 1 '21 at 10:51
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What's described in the question is typical of Hungarian PM Orbán's governing style.

Building on a Catholic conservative base and right-populist flavor, the element of arguing with the EU became most prominent during the migrant crisis. That episode turned into a big win for Orbán, politically. With an entrenched plurality of around 50% standing by the PM through it all for many years, and being flanked on the right by the even more vehemently xenophobic nationalist (arguably proto-fascist) Jobbik party, which has touched the 20% level in elections, the prospects for a shift to a more socially-liberal politics are poor. Although anything is possible as the fallout from Covid and related economic impacts has its impact in the coming year.

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    @markvs 1. being in power does not mean you have the support of 50% of the people, just a majority of those that voted - its routine for even western governments to be elected to power with just 30% of the vote. 2. Hungary has a corruption problem, which throws my first point into sharp focus...
    – user16741
    Nov 1 '21 at 4:25
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    @markvs - No, it is not possible to assume that a government's degree of support is strictly correlated with whether it is doing things correctly. It might seem trite, but even leaders like Adolf Hitler enjoyed enormous popularity at some points during their rule.
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 1 '21 at 4:46
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    @markvs 10 mathematicians is a horrible sample. Ask 10 construction workers next and see how that goes. As for Russia, not being naive is part of the national character. They regard the blue eyed Europeans, never questioning their governments as children. Putin objectively lost some support though, mostly due to low oil prices. Oil prices made him and they are going to break him. Nov 1 '21 at 15:46
  • @markvs - 50% referred to election results, such as 2018. I note again, with much concern, that the next biggest "opposition" vote comes from the far right, not the center or center-left!! I say this to hopefully provide some realistic assessment of the situation, which is decidedly conservative and okay with the right-populist mode of politics. Re: respect for LGBT as a political issue just isn't that important to most -- maybe, especially if we look at what remains of the political "center", but I can't say.
    – Pete W
    Nov 1 '21 at 16:36
  • @PeteW So that means the center and center-left parties skrewed up the election. They do it all the time all over the Globe, not just in Hungary.
    – markvs
    Nov 2 '21 at 17:45

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