2012. 03. 05.
European Parliament Magazine article by Kinga Gál MEP (EPP), Vice-Chairwoman of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) of the European Parliament.
Having a professional background in human and minority rights protection, the first and foremost I wish to stress in an article on the “situation of Hungary” is that Hungary is a democratic state. The rule of law is respected and the protection of fundamental, human and minority rights are more guaranteed than in many other Member States of the Union. The Orbán-government was elected democratically by the vast majority of Hungarians in April 2010 when, because of the lack of real reforms and the irresponsible policies of the previous governments, the country was very much in need of renewal. The ruling party, Fidesz, itself was born in the time of the democratic transition, fighting for freedom, the rule of law and European integration.
Since May 2010 the Hungarian EPP government adopted around three hundred new laws. It is understandable that this pace of change goes hand in hand with an increase in attention from international partners. However, what we are witnessing is not any more an increase in interest towards the country, but a series of unfounded attacks in the press and in certain political circles.
For the past seven and a half years, since I became a Member of the European Parliament, I cannot recall any case where a Member State has been subject to such attention. The debates both at plenary and committee level, a separate hearing, and a plenary resolution within five weeks show that the concrete issues raised are far less in number than the very generalised attacks based on rumours rather than facts. Happens this in spite of the fact that the Hungarian Government has repeatedly expressed its commitment towards resolving the concerns of the European Commission and is working hard on coming up with the required legislative solutions. As the Hungarian Government, like other cabinets in Europe, is not immune to mistakes, it is open to criticism and advice, so long as these are based on facts and rational arguments and not on prejudice, emotions or on political interests.
It was quite disappointing to see that the debates overall have been highly politicised, with arguments based merely on press reports and speculation, lacking objectivity, and with numerous factual errors. An incomplete knowledge and understanding of the real economic and political situation of the country has prevailed. The fact that the resolution against Hungary was adopted before the necessary corrections of the laws could be changes by the Hungarian Parliament, as a result of the ongoing dialogue between the Government and the European Commission, shows that the Socialists, Liberals, Greens and Communist Groups were less interested in the outcome of the negotiations and the solutions, but rather in creating a political hysteria. These groups have made their judgement even before the end of the legal process.
Such a political attitude fails to accept the fact that it is the European Commission, as the Guardian of the Treaties, which has the competence and means to objectively assess the compatibility of national legislation with EU laws rather than the European Parliament. It is very worrying that in this heated political debate changes are demanded in several Hungarian laws which come under national competence, and our institutional solutions have been challenged, and even when the equivalent institutions do exist in some Member States, or do not exist at all in others. Has it ever been raised as a problem in the EU that in certain Member States constitutional courts do not exist at all, or where even there is no written constitution in its present understanding?
In this current debate a vast majority of the Hungarians feel that they are being treated by double standards. This may have a serious unwanted effect in that more and more are loosing their belief and trust in the European institutions. The most often raised question I have received during the last weeks either from Hungarian journalists, or by the electorate in the form of dozens of e-mail has been: "Where were these institutions, or did they adopt any resolution when human and fundamental rights were clearly breached in Budapest in 2006 when peaceful commemorators of the 1956 revolution were seriously beaten up in the streets? Or, when the use of the mother tongue for minorities was prohibited in one of the Member States? Did the European Commission ever demand compliance with an Opinion of the Venice Commission from any other Member States when the issue did not come under community competence? In the case of Slovakia, for example, with its State Language Act, it could have acted, but it did not."
What more and more people see in this debate about Hungary is a debate on values rather than a debate on mere laws. The European left has to accept that in emphasizing different values, values backed and promoted by the majority of the population within the normal limits of democracy and the rule of law, and in the meantime respecting those who do not share these values, it does not mean the end of democracy and automatically an autocracy. To accept and respect each others values is the real meaning of the European spirit.
Sadly, this debate undermines the credibility of the European Union for more and more European citizens, not only just in Hungary. The result will be a weakening of European solidarity, it will strengthen political extremism and euroscepticism, and finally undermines the interests of the European Union as a whole.