Europa United Editor Ken Sweeney discusses the anti-gay rhetoric coming from Hungary and asks, how far can this go on before we see it as a human rights crisis on our doorstep?

Over the last week, a situation has developed in Hungary following comments by Fidesz MP István Boldog who called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products over what he described as its “provocative” advertisement campaign which promotes gay acceptance. The advertisement campaign was run in conjunction with a week-long “Love Revolution” event in Budapest and used the #loveislove. One of the images shows two men in an embrace smiling while holding bottle of coke. No big deal most of us will say. Not so for our friend Mr Boldog who took to social media with a threat; “Until they remove their provocative posters from Hungary, I will not consume their products! I’m asking everyone!”

The response in situations like this is to laugh it off as every country has its fair share of ultra conservative hardliners who refuse to accept that this is normal in 2019 and thankfully, we largely live in a world where people are no longer judged based on their sexual preferences.

Testing the water

But when it is coming from Hungary, is this another step in a short road to the end of basic human rights in what is still a European Union member state? There is absolutely no doubt that not all Hungarians think like Mr Boldog – a 2018 Hatter study revealed nearly two-thirds of Hungarians believe gay people should be free to live as they please, up from less than half in 2002 – but even while his views are in the low percentage of popularity, his position of power and influence seems to be quite the opposite.

His party did not endorse his call but they certainly did not condemn it so what are they looking for? Is this a testing of the waters in Hungary to gauge public reaction?

Recent events in Poland have shown that some European member states have clearly not got the memo when it comes to equal rights for all so where is the red line here and should the European Union be tasked on this to do more? And how should the EU act if they decide to intervene? Fines, expulsions? Either way, sitting on the fence is not going to make it go away and clearly, there needs to be some kind of tougher action taken if a lack of care for human rights is taking place in the house of the union.

No excuses

The now age old argument that Eastern European democracy is ten or fifteen  years behind and should be given time to develop no longer holds here. We are talking about basic human rights, not how to design a constitution. There may or may not be some kind of plan here but whatever it is, those in the firing line need to know that their rights are protected.

We often concentrate on the bigger issues of human rights such as the immigration crisis and right to life but in the meantime, the right wing governments introduce laws and promote campaigns under the nose of the EU that threaten sections of their own populations and because those minority sections are EU citizens, Brussels can sometimes forget about the danger they may be in. We cannot allow this to be the case because if we do, it will fester and grow and one day, become the norm.

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Ken Sweeney
Committed to idea of supporting aspiring writers and journalists. Serial podcaster.

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