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The Fox and the Raven: The European Union and Hungary Renegotiate the Margins of “Europe”

  • József Böröcz (a1)


A series of diplomatic exchanges has recently unfolded between the Hungarian government and the Commission of the European Union. The stakes are historic for the Hungarian side. Hungary formally applied for full membership in the European Union on March 31, 1994, the first country to announce such intentions among the successor states of the former Soviet bloc. Two years later, the Commission sent a lengthy questionnaire about the “state of the applicant” to all—by then, ten—central and east European applicant states. The Hungarian side filed its comprehensive response three months after the receipt of the questionnaire. The Commission waited until all responses were in and acknowledged the Hungarian answer in a document, issued another year later, whose purpose was to determine whether to recommend that the EU Council should start negotiations with the individual candidate countries about full membership.



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1. “‘Aha,’ the raven said, and the lobster fell back into the water.” Russian version of the famous La Fontaine tale, in which the raven appears not with the fox but with the lobster and, more importantly, the lobster, rather than the cheese is in the raven's beak. So the lobster gains its own freedom by enticing the raven to open its beak. (Elementary- school Russian textbook material from Hungary, twenty-five or so years ago.)

2. Graham Avery and Fraser Cameron, The Enlargement of the European Union (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), Table 1.1.

3. Frustration over delays had been a general feature of Hungary's experience with the European Union and its predecessor, the European Communities. See, e.g., Péter Balázs, “The Globalization of the Eastern Enlargement of the European Union: Symptoms and Consequences,” in Marc Maresceau, ed., Enlarging the European Union: Relations between the EU and Central and Eastern Europe (London: Longman, 1997), 358–75.

4. Nicholas Hopkinson, The Eastern Enlargement of the European Union: Report Based on Walton Park Conference WPS 94/6, 12-16 September 1994 (London: HMSO, 1994), 14.

5. Computed from Table 2.2. in Avery and Cameron, op .cit., 25.

6. Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm,” in Clues, Myths and the Historical Method, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989 [1986]), 96–125, and The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982 [1976]).

7. The full text of the Hungarian response—six thick tomes—was too vast for publication. It is available in its entirety as a manuscript in the Library of the Hungarian Parliament and in the National Széchényi Library. The document I analyze here is a version edited for presentation to the public. Possible differences between the abbreviated and the full version fall beyond the scope of the analysis of this paper: I assume that the authors of the full text consider the short version to be an adequate representation of the former.

8. Magyarország a ‘90-es években. A magyar kormány válasza az Európai Unió kérdo ʺívére. (Rövidített változat) [Hungary in the 90s. The Hungarian Government's Reply to the Questionnaire of the European Union: Abbreviated version]. Feleloʺs kiadó, Somogyi Ferenc államtitkár and Inotai András, az ISM vezetoʺje. Feleloʺs szerkesztoʺ, Forgács Imre. A kötet szerkesztésében részt vettek: Gervai Jánosné, Gyenes László, Horváthné Stramszky Marta, Hovanyecz László, Kelen Károly és Krajczár Gyula. (Budapest: A Magyar Köztársaság Külügyminisztériuma és az Integrációs Stratégiai Munkacsoport, 1997). Quotations from the original Hungarian text will be presented in the main body of the text in English in this author's translation. Henceforth: Hungary in the 90s.

9. Commission of the European Communities, Commission Opinion on Hungary’s Application for Membership in the European Union, COM(97)2001final. Brussels, 15th July 1997. Catalogue number: CV–CO–97–381–EN–C (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, DOC/97/13), henceforth Commission Opinion.

10. The methodological paradigm of this study thus falls within the logic of discovery, not that of systematic theory testing.

11. Willy de Clercq, “Preface,” in Maresceau, op. cit., xiii.

12. Craig Calhoun, “Interpretation, Comparison, and Critique,” Critical Social Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 52.

13. A U.S. government source, for instance, summarizes this as follows: “[P]rior to 1990, 65% of Hungary's trade was with Comecon countries. Now, over 70% is with OECD countries, including over 60% with the European Union.” U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service and U.S. Department of State, Country Commercial Guide Hungary, Fiscal Year 1998, found at, (Since the time of the writing of this study, this site has been removed from the web.)

14. According to data collected by Hungary's Privatization Research Institute, the European Union has been the source of about fifty percent of the direct foreign greenfield investment in Hungary, while the EU's own ECOSTAT estimates that forty-eight percent of privatization investment came to Hungary from only four European Union member states, i.e., Germany, France, Austria, and the Netherlands. See ,

16. During the mid-1990s, Hungary was the world's fifth most visited tourist destination country, so that roughly 3.9% of all global tourist arrivals took place in Hungary. Meanwhile, it occupied only the fortieth position in terms of tourist revenues, with a world tourist revenue share of .41% (WTO, Annuaires des statistiques du tourisme, Vol. 1, 48th ed. [Madrid: World Tourism Organization, 1996], 11–2). The share of EU citizens among all tourist entrants into Hungary has increased from 22.5% to 40% between 1994 and 1997; in terms of tourist nights, their proportion grew from 24.4% to 48% (KSH, Idegenforgalmi statisztikai évkönyv / Statistical Yearbook of Tourism, [Budapest: KSH, 1998]). For 1997, this represents the presence of 6,972,000 EU citizens spending 63.3 million tourist nights in Hungary, a country of a population of 10.2 million (ibid.). In commercial accommodations (the segment with the largest profitability), citizens of the European Union made up 59.2% of the guests and spent 68.9% of the guest nights in Hungary in 1997 (ibid.).

17. In 1997, European Union exports to the ten applicant states of central and eastern Europe totaled 78,266,000,000 ECU, i.e., 21,610,000,000 ECU more than imports from those states. The central and east European countries’ collective trade imbalance with the European Union was thus 27.6% of EU exports (Source: Eurostat [Comext] ,

18. Commission Opinion, 5.

19. Anne-Marie Van den Bossche, “The Competition Provisions in the Europe Agreements. A Comparative and Critical Analysis,” in Maresceau, op. cit., 84.

20. John Redmond, “Introduction,” in John Redmond, ed., The 1995 Enlargement of the European Union (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1997), 7–8.

21. Ibid.

22. Kosáry Domokos, Újjáépítés és polgárosodás, 1711–1867 (Budapest: Háttér Lap- és Könyvkiadó, Magyarok Európában III, 1990), 11.

23. This thematizes the problem of the extent to which the European Union can be considered a sovereign (supra-)state—a topic not addressed here due to considerations of space.

24. Bakhtin, op. cit., 76.

25. Ibid., 76–7.

26. Ibid., 77.

27. Galló Béla, “Ki dönt, ki cselekszik?” in Galló Béla and Hülvey István, eds. Szuverenitás- nemzetállam-integráció (Budapest: MTAPolitikai Tudományok Intézete, Európa Tanulmányok I, 1995), 50.

28. András Inotai, “Europe: Challenges and Risks at the Turn of the Century. An Economic Approach from Central Europe,” in On the Way: Hungary and the European Union, Selected Studies (Budapest: Belvárosi Könyvkiadó and International Business School, 1998), 211.

29. The symbolic power of the emerging European Union on Hungary's borders is in fact one of the little-examined underlying causes of the oft-noted smoothness of the regime change in Hungary.

30. In an unprecedented plebiscite, the Hungarian voters were asked in November 1997 to approve a move to NATO's military, security, and intelligence organization.

31. Inotai, op. cit., 212.

32. Hungary in the 90s, 5 [unnumbered page].

33. The term acquis communautaire denotes the entire legal material, including laws and regulatory standards, of the European Union. Acceptance and implementation of the acquis is required of the applicant state well in advance of accession.

34. Bakhtin, op. cit., 95.

35. Hungary in the 90s, 9–11.

36. Ibid., 9.

37. Reinhart Koselleck, “The Historical-Political Semantics of Asymmetric Counterconcepts,” in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1985).

38. József Böröcz, Leisure Migration. A Sociological Study on Tourism. (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1996).

39. Ibid., especially Chapter 1, 1–23.

40. Jürgen Habermas, “Yet again, German identity—a unified nation of angry DMburghers,” New German Critique, 52 (1991):84–101, and The Past as Present (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994). Quoted by Gerard Delanty, “Social Exclusion and the New Nationalism: European Trends and their Implications for Ireland,” Innovation, 10 (1997): 134.

41. Delanty, op. cit., 133.

42. Intermarriage rates between west and east Berliners, for instance, have been hovering around three percent while the proportion of marriages in which one partner is a foreigner is about seven times higher. See: “Die Ost-West Ehe bleibt auch weiter die Ausnahme,” Berliner Zeitung, 9 August 1996, 16. See also Marc Howard, “An East German Ethnicity? Understanding the New Division of Unified Germany,” German Politics and Society, 13 (Winter 1995):49–70.

43. Commission Opinion, 4.

44. Commission Opinion, 45. Emphasis mine.

45. Avery and Cameron, The Enlargement of the European Union, op. cit., 35.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid., 36.

48. Ibid., 37.

49. Ibid., 35.

50. Ibid.

51. Commission Opinion, 3.

52. Bakhtin, op. cit., 95. Second emphasis added.

53. Hungary in the 90s, 38.

54. This four-element system of criteria is a stylized summary distilled from a fifteen- page treatise. Commission Opinion, 17–31.

55. Csányi Tamás, Juhász Péter, and Megyik László, “A hiánygazdaságtól a gazdaság hiányáig,” Élet És Irodalom, 28 November 1997, 5.

56. See, e.g., “Around 60% of Czech and Hungarian Trade Now with the EU,” ,, quoting data reported by EUROSTAT, the European Union's own statistical service.

57. E.g., András Inotai, “What Is Novel about Eastern Enlargement of the European Union?” in Inotai, op. cit., 17.

58. Commission Opinion, 22.

59. Ibid., 23.

60. Ibid., 76–7.

61. Bakhtin, op. cit., 98.

62. Commission Opinion, 105.

63. Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 13.

64. József Böröcz, “Travel-Capitalism: The Structure of Europe and the Advent of the Tourist,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 34 (1992): 708–41. See also my Leisure Migration.

65. Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather. Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York: Routledge, 1996), 30.

66. To be noted is the irony in Pratt's imprecision here: her critique of colonial consciousness uses the topos of identifying “western Europe” with “Europe,” the same exclusionary, synecdochic representation of Europe pointed out above.

67. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes. Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge, 1992), 7.

68. Half-joking remark to this author.

An earlier version of this study was supported by a grant from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The revised version benefited from the author’s access to the European Commission’s Central Library in Brussels, made possible by a Faculty Research Council Grant from Rutgers University. The author thanks Susan Zimmermann for her help in accessing some related materials and Teresa Delcorso for her grantmaking assistance. He owes special thanks to András Barabás, Judit Bodnár, Eric Kaldor, Marc Maresceau, and Attila Melegh for comments on earlier versions of this text, Marc Morjé Howard for some relevant additional information, and the two anonymous reviewers at CSSH, along with its editors, for the improvements they have inspired.


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