Hungary grows weary of European Union

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarians celebrated joining the European Union eight years ago by chopping through the barbed wire that separated them from Austria, eliminating a final vestige of the Iron Curtain. But after years of financial crisis, many here in Europe’s heart are questioning their westward ties.

As membership in the E.U. becomes ever more a dour pledge to cut spending while opening borders to economic competition, anti-E.U. politicians in many countries have surged in popularity, capitalizing on the anxieties of voters who see dimming hope for the future. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been at the front of the pack, passing electoral and economic revisions that critics say are far outside of European norms but that he says put his country’s interests first.

Other countries could soon be following Hungary’s path in what has until now been a mostly one-way road toward tighter economic integration. Near-bankrupt Greece could be kicked off the euro, or even out of the E.U. entirely, if it fails to make enough progress in grappling with its problems. Even politicians who support the union as a whole are questioning the wisdom of the fiscal pact agreed to on Monday that binds together the 17 countries that have adopted the euro in a solemn vow of austerity, and will slowly draw in eight other countries, including Hungary, if they join the euro zone.

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