The European Parliament adopted a report condemning the “deliberate and systematic efforts of the Hungarian government” to undermine European values and calls for results in the process provided for in Article 7 of the EU Treaty, informs a press release of the Commission for Civil Liberties, Justice and Business internal (LIBE).
The lack of decisive action by the EU has contributed to the emergence of a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”, namely a constitutional system in which elections are held, but the observance of democratic norms and standards is absent, say MEPs.
The document adopted, with 433 votes in favour, 123 against and 28 abstentions, is based on the report with which Parliament triggered the Article 7 procedure in 2018 (which can ultimately lead to a suspension of certain rights of a Member State, in especially, of the right to vote in the EU Council, ed.), to provide an overview of developments in the 12 areas of interest of the Parliament.
It demonstrates how the values enshrined in Article 2 of the EU treaties, including democracy and fundamental rights in this country, have further deteriorated since 2018 through the “deliberate and systematic efforts of the Hungarian government” and have been exacerbated by the lack of EU action.
According to the press release, the Parliament laments the inability of the EU Council to make significant progress to counteract the democratic regression in Hungary. Deputies emphasize that Article 7 paragraph (1) does not require unanimity between member states to identify a clear risk of serious violation of EU values, nor to issue specific recommendations and deadlines. They say that any further delay in taking action under Article 7 to protect EU values in Hungary would constitute a breach of the rule of law by the Council.
The MEPs urge the Commission to make full use of all the instruments at its disposal and, in particular, the Regulation on budgetary conditionality.
At a time when EU values are threatened in particular by Russia’s war against Ukraine and its anti-EU actions, they also call on the Commission to:
– to refrain from approving the Recovery and Resilience Plan of Hungary until it fully complies with all the relevant recommendations of the European Semester and implements all the relevant rulings of the EU Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights;
– to exclude from financing those cohesion programs that contribute to the abusive use of EU funds or violations of the rule of law;
– stricter application of the Common Provisions Regulation and the Financial Regulation to combat any misuse of EU funds for political reasons.
Four years after the report that started the Article 7 process, MEPs are still concerned about several aspects of democracy and fundamental rights in Hungary. Some of the main areas are the functioning of its constitutional and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest, and freedom of expression, including media pluralism. Academic freedom, religious freedom, freedom of association, the right to equal treatment, including the rights of LGBTIQ people, the rights of minorities, as well as those of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are also problematic.
“The conclusions of this report are clear and irrevocable: Hungary is not a democracy,” said Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Greens/ALE, France), the Parliament’s rapporteur on the situation in Hungary.
“It was more urgent than ever for the Parliament to adopt this position, given the alarming rate at which the rule of law is regressing in Hungary. Besides the recognition of Fidesz’s autocratic strategy, the large majority of deputies who support this position in the European Parliament is unprecedented. This should be an alarm signal addressed to the Council and the Commission”, added the French MEP, quoted in the statement.
The Fidesz party criticized the European Parliament because “it is still preoccupied with attacking Hungary, even in spite of the current crisis”, after the report in which the EP condemns the “deliberate and systematic efforts of the Hungarian government” to undermine European values.
“The people of Europe are enduring an energy crisis due to the failed sanctions of Brussels and yet the priority of the left in the EP is to attack Hungary. (…) Brussels wants to punish Hungary and withhold the money due to it”, notes Fidesz.
The Hungarian party attributes the EP vote to the Hungarian government’s refusal to allow illegal immigrants into Hungary and “LGBTQ propaganda” in Hungarian schools, as well as Budapest’s opposition to “Brussels sanctions that caused the energy crisis”.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, qualified the report as an “insult” to the citizens of his country, appreciating in front of the press in Budapest that “well-paid MEPs should better deal with the real problems of the EU”.
“Hungarians have decided four times in a row what they want in the country,” he added, referring to the series of last legislative elections won with significant majorities by the conservative party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.