The Emergence of Migration Control
Politics in Hungary
Hungary has only recently moved through the transformation to a liberal democratic state, and is less industrialized and economically developed than the Western European states. Economically, the transition to a market economy has not yet been completed. Politically, democracy has been achieved, but the relics of the long period of state socialism will inevitably only fade gradually. The legacy of structural and systematic violations of individual rights, for example has, made Hungarian law inconsistent and lacking in transparency. This affects the area of refugees and migration, as Hungary is still at an early stage in the process of establishing a legal and institutional framework for migration control. As in most Central and Eastern European states, nationalism has historically been based more on ethnic identity than on liberal, civic values. The turbulent history of the region has also affected the ethnic map with trans-border, ethnic loyalties. Despite such a background, four decades of state socialism made refugees and immigrants into political novelties at the dawn of transformation in the late 1980s. Commitment towards refugees was greatly influenced by sentiments of ethnic solidarity, but is increasingly balanced against economic considerations, although most migration to Hungary still consists of ethnic Hungarians. Rapid political change has brought about new aspirations in Hungary, which now are centred on the aim of being counted internationally among the recognized liberal democracies and to acquire membership of the European Union. Both the historical and the future dimensions of Hungarian nation building are therefore essential elements in the framework within which policies in the field of migration control are chosen.