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British Ambassador’s praise of V4

December 4th, 2017

A liberal columnist accuses the British ambassador to Budapest of ‘flattering’ PM Orbán and ‘echoing his populist slogans’. She suggests that Britain needs the V-4 countries in its standoff with Brussels over Brexit, but would not protect Hungary and Poland if EU leaders wanted to strip them of their voting rights.

In an interview with Mandiner, Ian Lindsay, the ambassador of the United Kingdom to Budapest said Central European nations shared a common aversion to being told by other people what to do, and did not want Brussels to ‘become Moscow’. He also described PM Orbán as a trustworthy leader.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Györgyi Kocsis wonders why the British diplomat felt the need to praise Mr Orbán for his trustworthiness. She finds one possible explanation in Britain’s capacity to become more illiberal herself, for instance by exiting the European Human Rights treaty and consequently the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights. Another explanation, she continues, is Britain’s endeavour to find allies in the European Union who could facilitate a smooth Brexit deal. On the other hand, she suggests, Poland and Hungary may hope that while Britain remains an EU member, she can veto Article 7 procedures against those two countries within the European Council. True, Hungary’s veto wold be sufficient against a resolution aimed at depriving Poland’s voting right and vice versa. But Kocsis agrees with ‘numerous experts of EU law’ including Princeton University’s Kim Lane Scheppele, a fierce critic of the Hungarian government, who believes that the first paragraph of Article 7 needs a 4/5 majority only. Once a country has been declared a state where basic values are at risk under paragraph 1, it could be prevented from casting a vote on a motion to trigger paragraph 2, which strips it of its voting rights. Thus, Hungary’s veto power to protect Poland and vice versa could be circumvented, Kocsis believes. In such a case, Britain could easily be dissuaded from vetoing those motions if she were offered favourable Brexit conditions. Thus, she speculates further, the European Union could even draft a new basic treaty without Poland and Hungary being able to veto it, and if they decided not to sign it they would find themselves outside the European Union. Finally, Kocsis recommends this potential outcome to the opposition forces who oppose at present the idea of triggering Article 7 against Hungary.

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