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Hungary and Poland refuse to back down

December 7th, 2020

A liberal analyst thinks that Prime Minister Orbán miscalculated his chances of success when he opted for a head-on collision with the most influential European governments over plans to make EU financial transfers conditional on respect for the rule of law. A pro-government commentator, on the other hand, believes that Hungary must defend herself against arbitrary rule by Union bureaucrats.

In Magyar Narancs Dániel Hegedűs, a research fellow at the German Marshall Fund, suggests that during the debate on how the rule of law should be enforced, several ‘unforced strategic errors’ were made by the Polish-Hungarian tandem. The first, he explains, was to reject the rule of law conditionality scheme submitted by the German presidency of the European Union. He believes that was a watered-down proposal that would have allowed Hungary and Poland to avoid financial sanctions. True, the European Parliament wanted something more severe but if all the governments had been united behind the German document, it would have had a fair chance of success. Another mistake, Hegedűs continues, was to opt for blocking both the coronavirus recovery fund and next year’s Union budget. By doing so, they exacerbated the already mounting hostility against the two countries which will make it easier for their opponents to impose their will in the future. A third strategic mistake the liberal expert mentions was to virtually ignore the hostile coalition assembled by the Scandinavian and Benelux countries. This is a strong alliance which seems determined to break Hungarian and Polish resistance, Hegedűs writes.

In Mandiner, Péter Törcsi, a leading analyst of the pro-government For Basic Rights thinktank believes the real problem is that the European Commission is simultaneously extending both its sphere of competence and its interpretation of the concept of the rule of law. In particular, he writes, the Commission considers the rights of LGBTIQ individuals as a key priority and arbitrarily considers this to be a rule of law criterion. Once that principle is accepted, any illegal migrant will know that they must simply declare themselves as part of the LGBTIQ community and claim to have been persecuted in their home country as such, to automatically be recognised as a political refugee. Hungary, Törcsi explains, opposes the rule of law conditionality which would confer on the European Commission the right to decide who is in conformity with the rule of law and who is not, because Hungary intends to preserve its own interpretation of marriage as a union of a man and a woman as well as its ban on changing people’s gender at birth in civil records. He ends his article by underlining that governments which base their positions on common sense should ‘stand in the way of the arbitrary legal interpretations of progressive union bureaucrats’.

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