Mr Jósa, you represent the Subjective Values Foundation – apart from your big role in the UNITED Network. I always wondered: Why “Subjective Values”? What stands behind this name?
There is a historical and a philosophical background behind that. The historical one is very simple – it is a university project from the 2000s. In those times, we ran the “Subjective Radio” Station. It was called so – now I am coming to the philosophical part – due to the fact that the radio was an open forum for many-many cultural and philosophical ideas. Both right populists as well as left-wing and communist politicians were coming to us. The original name of the station had been “Publikum”, but after a while we came up with the title “Subjective Radio”. So, we used to work there, met there, and we generally like this idea of being open to different concepts. By definition, ‘subjective’ is about not telling anyone what they have to think, it is about a dialogue and incorporation of different ideas. Besides, values as such are not carved in stone. Of course, while growing up, your family, your background, or your culture give you certain values, but those should be questioned, ie they should not be objective values that are given but one must always think about them and question them. What we have experienced so far, you are not the only one, who does not know, what stands behind the Subjective Values Foundation: So, people tend to remember our name, because it is a catchy one.
I have just taken a look at your website and recognised that you were dealing with so many issues – such as culture, education, human rights, migration, refugees, and so on. What are the most important projects you are working on right now?
It is difficult to make priorities. For us, every project is important. We are members of many networks, so each network is one category in itself. For instance, we implement such projects as “Football against Racism”, a lot of festivals, cultural events, discussions, film screenings. We also have a very strong integrational part: For five years so far, we have been involved in a project connected to social entrepreneurship of migrants. Moreover, we foster cultural diversity and, for instance, celebrated the Chinese New Year together with the Chinese minority in Hungary. We are also a member of the National Campaign Committees in Hungary, and I am myself a European activist. More than that, we implemented several action days connected to the Human Rights Calendar – such as the Refugee Day or the Human Rights Day in summer, ie we are trying to be involved in everything that happens in Hungary. Simultaneously, we would like to be a hub for projects: If there is a good idea, the author may come to the Subjective Values Foundation – and we help to create a project based on this idea. We have a good mix of such projects devoted to migrants or solidarity. We help the authors, provide them with finances legal assistance, and even host them at our premises. When it comes to discrimination, volunteers, European values, “Szubjektiv” is there.
Lately, Hungary has been on the top of the political agenda in the EU and worldwide. Since you are dealing with such issues as migrants or refugees, what is your perception of the migration crisis in Hungary? How did you contribute to the resolution of this crisis?
We do not really think that the crisis in Hungary is about migration, we think it is about politics. For the last 20 years, refugees have not been targeting Hungary as a destination country. We find ourselves on the broad Western Balkan route, and this crisis happened due to the fact that the route was popular among migrants. Moreover, we do not even have migrants, because Hungary functions as a gateway. We have, let’s say, approximately 500,000 people, who crossed the country, and only 2,000 of them are still in Hungary. The crisis has passed on to others. To make it clear, we do not really agree with building walls on the border, as we used to have lived behind such a wall for approximately 40 years during the Communist times. We helped to create a demonstration against this wall, though normally the Subjective Values Foundation does not take any side – be it government or opposition: We tend to both criticise the government and to cooperate with it. We are members of many cooperative activities with the government itself: For instance, our integration projects are financed by the Ministry of the Interior. We are trying to make politics, let’s say, more realistic, as, when we come to populism, hosting and welcoming migrants is unfortunately not a popular thing. For a politician, it is easier to say that migrants are wrong, blame them and tell that they should get back to their countries. Yet, protection and patriotism are also values we support – the idea to host migrants and integrate them, give them legal and humanitarian aid is an important thing and that is the direction, towards which we try to push the government. We also remind the government of that they should bear in mind the Geneva Convention on Human Rights, while dealing with the people, who come to us and seek for an asylum. Simultaneously, we are not a humanitarian aid NGO; we are more about advocacy and supporting those, who are in a humanitarian need. We donated a lot of things when the crisis started, but this is not really our field of work.
We are now in another country on the Western Balkan route – Croatia – and talking at the Forum of Young Professionals “Europe Lab”. Here, you are one of the speakers at the Workshop “Refugees (un)welcome – Caught in a Trafficking Jam”. Can you please explain what is going on in the workshop and where you are heading?
The aims of the workshop are to generate project ideas, which would be awarded by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, and to connect them. Right now, we are facing a very interesting and fragile moment: For another two days, we are going to elaborate ideas, but as of today we have more than 15 of them. As trainers, we have to encourage people to have more ideas but also ask them to be more realistic and eventually pick one of them only, because if you have too many of them, it is not feasible to create so many proposals: In total, we are 80 people here, who cannot propose 80 different ideas. What I am trying to do right now, is to give some feedback to the participants of projects and also to encourage them to be more practical and realistic: Perhaps, they have an aim to change the world (I have the same aim, actually) but it is not feasible within one project at this workshop.
The Subjective Values Foundation is a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Why is it important for you to be a part of the Forum?
First of all, there are personal reasons for that. Head of the Board of our organisation used to work on Russia at the University, he is a Russophile. In a practical sense, we believe that Russia is a part of Europe, even if it is not a part of the European Union. It is a legal thing, but if you asked me, I would say that Russia joining the EU should be a long-term objective for the European Union. When we talk about energy, security, global issues, Russia should be a part of the EU. And the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is the place to discuss the issues about Russia and also a way to cooperate with Russian NGOs. We were looking for a safe place to engage with Russian NGOs and to cooperate on projects with them – and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is exactly this place. I personally do not speak Russian, but the Head of the Board does, ie it is an opportunity for him to train his language skills as well.
What are the most burning topics in the EU-Russia relations right now, which might be relevant for our Forum?
As I said, the EU is a dysfunctional thing without Russia – that is my clear opinion. When we look, for instance, at energy issues – renewables or global warming – these are not only economics but also human rights. As I see, global warming and climate will be drifting in the direction of human rights and life-threatening issues in the next 10 years. If we take migration, why do people leave their countries? They can’t live there anymore – because of war but also because of the environment – a topic, which is undervalued. If we think of human rights and the rights of people living in Russia, I believe the freedom of speech is a very hot topic. Further questions arising is how liberal Russia is, how many people in Europe think of Russia as a liberal country, what the perception of Russia in Europe is. This is utterly important not to see everything in black and white, like Russia being an enemy and Europe being a victim, but to maintain and keep a dialogue. There are a lot of common interests but also there are a lot of problems: For instance, when we talk about Ukraine or Crimea, we have a hot point for debates. Yet, when we talk about global issues – such as terrorism, we still have something in common. I always try to focus on things we can agree upon. And I wish these were the things Forum would be thinking about.
We are 160 organisations now. What would you like to wish to the Forum members – both from EU countries and from Russia?
Well, “Europe Lab” is a nice thing to wish. I believe in meetings gathering people from different cultures. There is no hierarchy in cultures but there is a gap in communications, meetings – and I believe in such formats – talking, discussing together, sharing perceptions, looking for common values and agreeing on them. Another thing I would like to wish is growing, integrating more different concepts and ideas that exist in single countries and bringing them up to the European level, ie not staying on the national one only. There are hundreds of common values shared by the EU and Russia, and I always prefer to focus on them and not on the differences.
Thank you very much for this interview.
The interview was shot on 22 July 2016 by the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum at the Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab” in Vukovar, Croatia.