Joachim Fritz-Vannahme
4. April 2020

What does #Brussels say to #Hungary?

 All EU members are equal. But some are more equal.

George Orwell has written the best commentary on the situation in Hungary with his “Animal Farm”.


#Victor_Orbán, who is still the prime minister of his country by title, has long been making his way from democrat (which he used to be a good twenty years ago) to autocrat (which he already is today) to – well, king? dictator? potentate?


Orbán and Hitler’s enabling acts in comparison


This week’s enabling act is the decisive step: in the slipstream of the Corona crisis, Orbán is removing the last obstacles. A two-thirds majority in the Budapest parliament will enable him to govern by decree without restrictions in future.


This enabling act was also an disenabling act: the “people’s representatives” have resigned, and without an expiry date, their Prime Minister can do whatever he wants in future. And because the word has already been said here: Adolf Hitler’s Enabling Act of 24 March 1933 – Orbán missed the anniversary by a week – was limited to four years, unlike the Hungarian one.


Orbán is more equal – and the EU simply sheepishly looks on, or even away, depending on your perspective.



Lack of solidarity – or of democracy?


On Deutschlandfunk radio, CDU MEP Daniel Caspary accuses his former party colleague Orbán (who was once vice-president of the European People’s Party and the European Christian Democrats) of lacking solidarity.


What a mistake: this is not about solidarity, but has already long been about democracy in Hungary and the (lack of) respect for EU legal norms. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed concern – without mentioning Hungary! – about “the application of emergency measures in all member states”, which is closely monitored by the Commission. And when the guard sounds the alarm – what happens then?


Out of a lack of respect for the rules, the European Commission had, five years ago with Jean-Claude Juncker at its helm at the time, dragged the Hungarian government (i.e. Orbán) together with Poland and the Czech Republic to the court in Luxembourg and this week the European Court of Justice ruled in its favour.


 Three have violated EU law


According to the highest court, all three countries had violated European agreements and rules. According to the judges, they should have accepted refugees.

Looking back, one would like to say: not a small thing, at most a detail in Hungary’s long farewell to the EU. ” The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”

This is how Article 1a of the Lisbon Treaty reads, as a reminder. Let us start with the last point: the protection of minorities. When the Constitutional Treaty was being negotiated in the Brussels Convention (which then formed the basis of the Lisbon Treaty), it was the Hungarian representatives who advocated the protection of minorities. With good reason: in the neighbouring countries of the Danube Democracy, which is now mutating into the Danube Monarchy, there are numerous Hungarians who were to be protected.

Joachim: bin etwas verwirrt. Die offizielle Quelle, die ich verlinkt habe, hat mit diesem Wortlaut den Art. 1a, aber in Deinem dt. Link IST es Art. 2 – was ist denn da nun richtig?


Hungary’s rule of law – in decline


Today, however, this reads differently. Orbán’s emergency law also contains a passage on birth certificates. There the “sex at birth” is to be certified. The right to change one’s sex would thus be abolished.

In April 2014, the European Court of Human Rights rejected Orbán’s Church Act, which requires religious communities to be recognised by parliament: This would violate the neutrality of the state. Protection of minorities?

Rule of law: The Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI), which is compiled every two years, now sees Hungary in the Orbán years fatally departuring from democracy and the rule of law, “In Hungary a powerful executive cooperates in a non-transparent manner with business circles that it has itself created. The governing elite and economic actors around it govern as their private interests dictate.

Transparency International registers a deterioration of 11 points in Hungary compared to the base year 2012.

Joachim: eine Übersicht ähnlich dem deutschen Link finde ich so nicht, daher habe ich direkt auf den CPI Ungarn verwiesen. Da stehen die 11 Punkte aber auch explizit drin.

Am Ende dieses TI-Satzes steht im dt. Text noch ein ss nach dem Punkt. Vermutlich hast Du da etwas zu löschen vergessen … Oder fehlt da Text, den ich noch übersetzten müsste?


The perfect exchange between business and politics


Hungary’s elites have all cultivated a corrupt, small-scale exchange between politics and the economy since the political turn-around in Central and Eastern Germany in 1989/1990, so the accusation is not only appropriate for Orbán. However, since his triumphant election victory in 2010 he has perfected and personified the system. Without him, nothing works in Hungary. The country lives with his authoritarian, conservative nationalism.

Where else in the EU is there such a thing as a three-member “budget council” (staffed by Orbán’s followers oder, wenn Du’s etwas provokanter haben willst: cronies) of the central bank being allowed to dissolve parliament if the budget of the House doesn’t suit it?


Orbán sees greedy bankers and bureaucrats only elsewhere


“The bankers, the greedy multinationals, the Brussels bureaucrats, who are in their pay, and of course their lackeys here in the country” would “march up” against Hungary, seconded by “international big business”. This is how Orbán raged as early as 2013 at a party conference of his Fidesz party.

With their veto, the “Brussels bureaucrats” barely prevented Orbán’s planned introduction of the death penalty in 2015 – it would have been the deathblow for Hungary’s membership in the EU.


Which brings us to the essential: Why does the EU treat Orbán’s undemocratic Hungary so sensitively?


The European People’s Party suspended Fidesz’s membership a year ago, yet an exclusion has, to date, not been imposed. The European Commission – not this one, but the ones of Jean-Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans – sued Orbán’s Hungary several times, meanwhile with success (see above). The most powerful woman in the Union, the German Chancellor, left it at reminders.


From Brussels just roaring silence ?


Article 7 of the Treaty of Lisbon allows the suspension of the rights of a Member State, up to and including the withdrawal of voting rights (no formal exclusion is provided for). This procedure has been opened since a vote in the European Parliament. Now it’s the turn of the European Council or the Commission.

But nobody is moving there.

Admittedly, a unanimous decision would be required in the Council. And so far the alliance of the brothers in arms Poland and Hungary is working with iron perfection: Poland protects Hungary, Hungary protects Poland.

But even the attempt would be a signal. Instead: silence in Brussels’ EU commission.

In this way this European Union is not only making itself ridiculous with its values: it is making itself superfluous.







Photo by Kate Kasiutich on Unsplash

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