No festivities to the tune of “Ode to Joy,” no star-spangled blue flags unfurled in majesty. In Győr, the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s entry into the European Union (EU) went unnoticed. In this city halfway between Vienna and Budapest, the European elections on June 9 are of less interest to the 130,000 residents than the municipal elections scheduled for the same day.

The only obvious reference to the EU comes from Fidesz, the party of ultraconservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Plastered at the entrances to the city and prominently displayed in public spaces, the party’s campaign poster features Ursula von der Leyen. The Commission president is shown seated in an armchair, surrounded by the main representatives of the Hungarian opposition, “loyal servants of Brussels” in tuxedos and white gloves. Each carries a silver tray inscribed with the words “gender,” “immigration” or “war.”

Located in the northwest of Hungary, the most developed part of the country, Győr, which confirms its reputation as a Fidesz stronghold at every election, has benefited greatly from European integration. With 15,000 students, the city’s university was built largely with funds from Brussels. The same goes for the freeways linking Győr to the three surrounding capitals (Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava) and the city-center canal, widened to prevent the Danube river from silting up.

There’s also Széchenyi Square, carefully renovated to add character to the pedestrian district of this typically Austro-Hungarian city, with its yellow and ochre facades, returned to its Baroque charm over the last 20 years. Here, unemployment does not exceed 1.8%, compared with 4.2% for the national average.

Audi, the beating heart of Győr’s prosperity

Jozsef Balogh, the city’s former left-wing mayor (1994 to 2006), wouldn’t want Győr to be accused of ingratitude. “All opinion polls confirm that Hungarians are pro-European,” he stated. “The problem is that they have become completely passive. Or they’ve distanced themselves. Out of nearly 10 million residents, 700,000 have gone abroad to work, as my own children have done.”

The beating heart of Győr’s prosperity is spread over 370 hectares on the eastern outskirts of the city. “This is the Audi empire, the largest engine factory in the world; not even China has an equivalent!” said Imre Pintér, president of the chamber of commerce, as he showed us around in his Audi A6 station wagon. In Győr, even the police cars bear the four rings of the Volkswagen Group brand. In operation since 1993, this gigantic industrial complex stands on the site occupied, during the Soviet bloc, by a production plant for buses and trucks. The arrival of the German manufacturer has attracted numerous subcontractors from Western Europe and even across the Atlantic.

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