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European Parliament debates Hungarian emergency measures

May 16th, 2020

In the wake of a debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Hungary, a pro-government and a left-wing commentator both find the EP powerless to have a real impact on Hungary’s governance.

In Thursday’s debate on Hungary’s coronavirus emergency regulations, MEPs critical of the Hungarian legislation called on the European Council to launch another Article 7 procedure against Hungary for infringement of fundamental rights, including free speech. Some also suggested that EU funding for Hungary should be made conditional on respect for the rule of law. Minister of Justice Judit Varga’s request to represent Hungary in the debate was declined. The speaker said Prime Minister Orbán was the only Hungarian official who could address the Assembly, according to the rules of procedure. Mr Orbán said he was too busy to attend. He paid a visit to Serbia on Thursday where he told the press that before the end of the month, the government would probably put an end to the special powers it has exercised under the virus emergency law.

Magyar Nemzet’s Zsolt Bayer finds it pathetic of the European Parliament not to allow Minister of Justice Judit Varga to represent the Hungarian government in the EP debate on Hungary’s emergency measures (see BudaPost May 8). The pro-government columnist likens the EP debate to the 1920 ‘Trianon Peace diktat’, when Hungary’s future was decided by the Western powers without involving Hungary in the decision that led to huge territorial as well as population losses for the country. Bayer suggests that Hungarians should not bother too much with the dispute, as the EP is too weak even to ‘dig Hungary’s grave’.

In Népszava, Gábor Horváth agrees with critics of the Hungarian government’s emergency regulations, but also thinks that the European Parliament is powerless to have any real impact on Hungarian matters and defend democratic norms. Horváth, however, also believes that the EU can put pressure on the Hungarian government during the negotiations on the EU budget and predicts that those talks will prove a tough battle between the EU and the Hungarian government. He concludes by suggesting that if the EU does cut funds to punish the Hungarian government, it will only harm the country in the short run, and benefit it in the long term.

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