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Weeklies on EU Article 7 procedure

May 29th, 2017

Two critics of the government agree that the resolution adopted by the European Parliament to launch a procedure to investigate whether basic European values are systematically transgressed in Hungary is unlikely to cause serious problems to the government. 

In HVG, János Dobszay is convinced that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will retreat as soon as the threat of serious sanctions becomes real. For the moment however there is no such danger, he continues. “This is a time of sabre rattling”. Being in the crossfire in the European Parliament is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to claim that he is protecting the community and is being attacked by those who want Europe to be invaded by barbaric hordes. Ultimately, the commentator believes, Europe cannot solve Hungary’s problems, as long as Hungarian voters do not send the incumbent government packing. The Union cannot disregard the legitimate will of the Hungarian electorate. He suggests, nevertheless, that a window of opportunity may be opening for the opposition if it manages to frame next year’s elections as an event where Hungary’s Union membership is at stake. Corruption, their main weapon in the campaign, is not a winning card because although nobody approves it, nobody admits to being affected by it either. On the other hand, Uniomembership and Hungary’s pro-Western commitment could be a promising theme to build opposition campaigns on.

In Heti Válasz, Bálint Ablonczy deems it highly improbable that the procedure launched by the European Parliament will lead to actual sanctions against Hungary. It has never been used so far because it was considered as a kind of nuclear option. In reality, Ablonczy explains, it is a tiresome and long process whereby the relevant committee of the European Parliament will conduct consultations and research for several months. Even if it does conclude that democracy is under threat in Hungary, a simple vote in the European Parliament will not be decisive. The Council of Ministers has to join in with 23 votes out of 28, which would be difficult to achieve, because ministers usually refrain from condemning their colleagues, in order to avoid being condemned one day themselves. But even if they approved the resolution with such a crushing majority, what would follow would be consultations between Budapest and Brussels on the necessary changes in institutions and policies. If those are unsuccessful, it is the European Council that has to take a unanimous decision, by suspending financial transfers or depriving Hungary of its voting rights. Poland has already assured Hungary that it would not vote for such a resolution. At any rate, the procedure is extremely complicated and Ablonczy believes that both sides are happy with such a long drawn out process. The European Commission will be able to tell its critics that disciplinary measures against Hungary are being considered, while the Hungarian government will build its electoral campaign on threats coming from Brussels and the “Soros resolution” which intend to impose hordes of immigrants on Hungary.

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