Who we are
Republikon Institute is a liberal think tank organisation based in Budapest, focusing on analysing Hungarian and international politics, formulating policy recommendations and initiating projects that contribute to a more open, democratic and free society. The goal of the Institute is to promote discussion and implementation of liberal ideas, approaches and policies.
What we believe
Republikon believes that Hungarian politics can take a turn to the better only if liberal ideas and opinions are formulated in the policy area and the public discourse. Although there is no significant liberal party as of this moment, liberal ideas and approaches can still enter public discourse through think tank institutions. This is exactly the role Republikon Institute has been playing: independent from any political party but committed to liberal values, Republikon has been endeavouring to shape policy thinking and public debate with its innovative approach to politics and policy. It is the mission of Republikon to articulate new ideas and to find ways of making the values of liberal democracy, human rights and tolerance more popular.
We seek cooperation of any form with any like-minded individuals or organisations in Hungary and abroad. We are happy to give a more detailed description of any or all our activities upon request and are open to all types of inquiries.
What we do
Research and publications
Through political analyses, quantitative research and extensive media studies, Republikon aims to influence the public debate by shedding light on the operations of the government and the different political parties. In the past, our institution has organised conferences on human rights and tolerance; analysed government policy making and voting record in Parliament, showed how the different changes in the institutional framework of Hungarian democracy help government power and demonstrated media bias in public news reporting.
Republikon Institute regularly publishes political analyses that aim at better understanding the political process. With original approaches, innovative methods and scrupulous research activities we are especially interested in tackling and often falsifying some of the clichés and stereotypes present in Hungarian political thought. Even if focusing on a specific issue, the political analyses of Republikon always attempt to draw more general conclusions about the Hungarian political system.
We are constantly monitoring government policy with regards to healthcare, education, the economy, tolerance and human rights issues. Our weekly reports contain an authoritative summary of the week’s events while our regular policy papers provide more in-depth analyses of policy trends. We also put forward liberal solutions on these key issues. In 2011 we have launched a major program aimed at bringing talented young people to the policy process by organising future-oriented policy workshops throughout Hungary. Republikon maintains an internship program for university students in the fields of social sciences and economics. Our interns work for 4 months and have a chance to involve themselves in the area they are most interested in.
Conferences and workshops
Republikon Institute places great emphasis on organising events that give an opportunity for decision makers, academics and experts to interact and share ideas on various current political and policy issues. Our events covered as diverse topics as the future of free market solutions in Hungary, the situation of minority rights and the evaluation of the activities of the president of the Republic. We are proud to have hosted the only high level political debate of the 2010 parliamentary election campaign in Hungary. Tibor Navracsics (Fidesz), András Schiffer (LMP), Ildikó Lendvai (MSZP) and Lajos Bokros (MDF) debated on the question “Who should liberals vote for”.
Read our English publications:
Mail address: Harangvirág u. 7. Budapest, Hungary-1026
Events in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation:
After the “revolution”
Evaluating the Government in a Liberal Perspective
2nd June, 2011
Corner Event Center (Budapest)
Republikon Institute organized a conference on 2 June, 2011 to evaluate the first year of the new right-wing government. The uniqueness of the event was that it examined the last year specifically from a liberal perspective.
In the first session – moderated by Zoltán Ceglédi – András Hajós, Zoltán Czutor and Zsolt “Superman” Erdélyi talked about how useless the National Consultation is with the manipulated questions and immense waste of money. Zsolt Erdélyi can’t accept the new regime ideology, “hungaróteológia” (literally: “Hungarian theology”) and regrets that Hungary is a place "where nothing never happens." Moreover, according to Erdélyi, Hungary is characterized by the mediocrity. András Hajós stressed how important everyday thinking and the peaceful organization of civil society would be. And those who want to do something in the field of public affairs should certainly not think about things built on top, but rather about the grass-roots initiatives. Zoltán Czutor emphasised how successfully other countries solved conflicts similar to the Roma-Hungarian coexistence – although a consistent policy (the positive discrimination of black people) in the United States also needed decades to achieve goals. According to the front man of Belmondo rock band, the cultural life is characterized by degradation instead of an expansion.
In the second session – moderated by Ádám Petri – Róza Hodosán, Gábor Gavra, Gábor Horn and Csaba Kákosy evaluated the first year of the second Orbán-government in several aspects. Róza Hodosán underlined: the miracle is that the Hungarian liberalism could be determinant for nearly twenty years after transition. According to her, we should take into account this period in liberal eyes, and not the last 2-3 years, which led to the downfall of the SZDSZ (Alliance of Free Democrats). Concerning the government: she finds many resemblances between the current government's measures and certain decisions of the Kádár-regime.
As Gábor Gavra said, the Fidesz government could make every mistake with an amazing speed over the past one year, which incidentally led to the downfall of the Gyurcsány-government. Valuing the government, Gábor Horn said that the prime difference between this government and the Gyurcsány-governments is that Orbán’s government had a strong social vision. But the Orbán’s system is basically built on fear, and therefore they will fail in 2014. According to Gábor Horn, the greatest destruction is carried out in the field of education: the government takes actions which the following cabinet wouldn’t be able to repair – and this is complemented by the extremely harmful battle between Rózsa Hoffmann-Zoltán Pokorni.
The government's economic policy will be characterized by a "war", said Csaba Kákosy, because nowadays there is no reason why the “Matolcsy-Orbán-tandem” should be ended up. The Széll Kálmán Plan interrogates basically good questions, mentioned the former Minister of Economy, but we don’t know what really the government thinks about the economic policy. Since this plan is the third one in the last year.
In the third session – moderated by Csaba Tóth – Kornélia Magyar, Ágoston Sámuel Mráz and Gábor Török talked about how the first year of the second Orbán government could be valued in the dimension of success. According to Kornélia Magyar the first year of the government is characterized by a failure, because the governing parties already lost many of their supporters (1 million voters) without even undertaking any serious structural reforms.
Gábor Török drew attention to the deteriorating public opinion survey data: this slow loss of popularity couldn’t be recovered quickly; therefore the last year should be a warning sign for the political forces. According to him, we have to bind the historical election of 2010 from the judgement of the whole period, which should be evaluated similarly to the earlier terms. As Ágoston Mráz mentioned, the Hungarian people isn’t a revolutionary people, therefore the term of "revolution" used by government’s communication is not desirable. The adoption and interpretation of media law should be defined as a failure said the senior analyst of Nézőpont Institute, Ágoston Mráz – and Kornélia Magyar too. He emphasised that the greatest success of the new government is that they enhanced the validation of the national interest to a higher level. In the serious professional debate there appeared a consensus between political scientists: there wasn’t a revolution in Hungary in the election of 2010, and the “putinization" of the country did not start.
All in all, the event was successful; we can define a liberal narrative of the government’s work in the last year. As a result, liberal values and independent liberal position are still present in Hungarian politics discourses.
The New Media Law in Action
20th September 2011
A38 ship (Budapest)
Republikon Institute organized a conference made up of three sections called “The new Media Law in action” on the 20th September 2011.
Ádám Petri Lukács said in the introduction of the first section, he believes that contrary to all expectations the position of the press is surprisingly stable, radical change is imperceptible. The press is basically free, which is proven by the fact that daily fifteen articles are published in this regime, which is not typical of dictatorships. On the other hand, Ferenc Vicsek argued for that in connection with the Media Law, the question is not about what you observe of it, but what that potentially qualifies for. Anytime it can be decided to live facilities permitted by the law, computers can be taken from the editorial office, the editor in chief can be booked; moreover the media can be radically harassed. In his opinion the power does not use its options, just until it does no need them, so you should not set your heart at rest. The question if there will be free elections in 2014, is not independent of the freedom of the press, because people should not recognize what a country they actually live in.
Márton Kozák disagreed with the handler’s assessment. He said the cancellation of the ninth commandment is taking place; the new structure is institutionalizing the special relationship of the power to the reality. Do not understate the impact of public media, which in his opinion is not actually public media, but state media. It would be a public servant when discussing important things through. But we cannot see this example, since in connection with the private pension funds; a lady representing the fund’s opinion was called in order to ask her whether she uses the members’ money to campaign. Similarly, the Fiscal Council’s members were not allowed to argue against their abolition in the “public media”.
Ákos Gergely Balogh saw the situation less serious. He said the media coverage of public events has not nearly as great significance as it marked. The big commercial TV and online media are present in providing information with a more telling effect. Criticism always finds a place for itself; in this regard the status of the press has not changed. In his opinion the bad economic environment has much more serious negative effects on the functioning of media due to the fall of advertisement. According to Balogh, the Media Authority will not operate very differently than its predecessor; most of its main profile is the protection of Minors and the non-political affairs.
In the second round participants argued about the role and weight of public advertisements. Vicsek and Kozák agreed that government orders get a much bigger part in the right-wing press, while previously not pro-government media had received orders as well. According to Balogh, this is not surprising, previously there was no other way either. It is typical not only for companies but for such orders too that the personal networks are at least as important as how many people get to the information. All the three participants agreed in the positive consequences of whether the state appears as advertiser on the market despite of its distorting effect, as it can be both an important source of revenue, and the obligation of the state many times (e.g. European application funds).
In the framework of the overall rating Márton Kozák drew attention to the rightly missed issues by the intellectuals - such as human rights issues, foreign policy and European Union issues –which would be the task of public media to process, and moreover there is a serious responsibility and leeway. Ferenc Vicsek said this is basically a question of money, but Ákos Gergely Balogh claimed that individual commitment, ambition for producing a separate, high-quality Hungarian content is at least as important. Kozák noted a contradiction: who hold power is simply not interested in publishing political competition and as we know from the Orbán’s speech in Kötcse, is neighter intended on. In connection with the future prospects Balogh suggests, the conversion cannot be generated by the Media Law: the crisis of print media could continue to deepen, but the online market is in the red too. Thus, players can come and go, but liberty of press likely will not be losing. Kozák did not want to make predictions; in his view the question becomes tensile when the power holders feel threatened. Vicsek allude to the main claim of final report of the Freedom House and agreed with it. It says “the liberty of media is tightrope dancing”.
In the second section Zoltán Ceglédi had a talk with Bence György (TV2), Róbert Kotroczó (RTL Klub) and Szilárd Németh (ATV) news directors. The participants discussed the position of commercial television in the light of the new Media Law, just as the motivational factors and their assessment in editing news.
Bence György said they were consulted during the preparation of the Media Law, but he does not know how their lesson was finally used up. Basically, the TV2 did not have the disadvantage of the new law, their tune-in is all right, and there was no serious conflict with the media authority. Bence György states that having hardly any policy in the early evening news is irrespectively of the Fidesz government. The channel’s income is not significant the share of state advertising, so it is on good grounds to make a gesture to the government. The news director explained that the spread of tabloid news is basically the reaction to the needs of viewers. As a market-based company tune-in is held the most sensitive, so the primary purpose is meeting the needs of the people. Anyone seriously interested in public news, is informed elsewhere, although he added that the evening program spend much more time with policy, because of the composition its viewers. While editing the news they are looking for eventful stories where there is an opportunity to find a good moderator and shoot the story properly. For the future, Bence György said they will not going to change, do not plan to have further tabloids, but it is conceivable if the public interest raises for public news – such as tough election or a crisis – they will produce more political / public life content.
In Róbert Kotroczó’s opinion the old media law was not so bad, because a lot of positive duty has been enacted, such as the ratio of public service content, which timeline was assigned to, so the concurrency could not entice the audience with some entertaining programs. But if you look at the companies' interests, the new law is better now, because of more freedom, such as the possibility of product placement. They perceive changes only to the extent that more attention should be paid to the proportion of crime news. He said analysts tend to hypocritically criticize the commercial channels, but viewers cannot be replaced, they are such as it is. The competition began on news programs to increase the proportion of crime news, and one-half years later, the RTL Klub is forced to change as well. Like Bence György, news director of RTL Klub also pointed out that evaluating only the early evening broadcast is one-sided, since the later line-ups have thoughtful programs as well, which provides still far more thoughtful programs for a greater audience than public service. As for ambitions Kotroczó told that his aim is such a content production, which shows to later generation how people used to live and what problems they were faced.
Szilárd Németh reported no negative experiences bye the use of the Media Law. As he mentioned, "a far right party" denounced ATV to the Media Authority every day referring to broadcasting unbalanced information, but ATV were not found guilty, so after a while, these efforts have ceased. Anyway, evenness is required to the media system as a whole - noted the news director. According to Németh, ORTT was in many ways more stringent than the current Media Authority. He also said that they do not target the two major commercial channels to compete with; their main competitor is the M1. According to Németh, they have a good place in this competition, as views of M1 falls, so increases theirs. Although there were attempts at being more popular, but that meant they always fall. The viewers at ATV are open to political news; this is that they should be provided. Thus, the reason why they do not have a longer news line-up as TV2 and RTL Klub, is not only financial. The news director’s targets are audience expanding from 5-6% to 10%, and draw people – who do not necessarily agree on policy direction – to ATV screen.
In the last section, the participants discussed the new media law from the perspective of foreign correspondents living in Hungary. They all agreed that the less news the better it is for a small country and argued that in this regard, Hungary was receiving more than its fair share. The participants were in agreement that it is in the nature of their coverage that negative news has a better chance of making headlines.
Pablo Gorondi compared the practices of the present government with regards to the media law to its predecessors and argues that the opposition always finds it more important to talk to the foreign press. Kester Eddy talked about a number of adverse effects about the present state of Hungarian democracy, adding that the media law just one such troubling aspect. Runa Hellinga found it difficult to comprehend why high ranking members of the government avoid the foreign press. In conclusion, the participants agreed that while their own reporting has not been affected, the new media law was of great concern to the international community.
All in all, the event was successful; participants could define the main problems, impacts of the new Media Law. Furthermore, Republikon Institute was encouraged to play a watchdog role regarding quality of public media.