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The EU is supposed to be a Union of democracies and an attempt to prevent a recurrence of fascism or communism. However has the EU set down any minimum standards for what constitutes a democracy and has there been any attempt by the EU or EP, at any level, to influence what is happening to civil and political rights in Hungary?

In other words, is the EU ultimately irrelevant in all of this or is it playing a significant role for good or ill?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 19th, 2013 at 04:58:48 PM EST
The EU plays multiple ambiguous roles in this.
  • The Commission did strongly criticise some key legal changes 15 months ago, and threatened to launch infringement proceedings. This did force Fidesz into significant concessions, in particular regarding the central bank, which seemed to be the priority of the Commission. But then that was it. It may start again, though, after this (also here).
  • The EP is louder on the issue, but powerless. Still, their calls for getting serious with infringement proceedings, ultimately leading to the suspension of EU payouts to Hungary, may be heeded. In the EP, previously, the EPP tried to sabotage a wider criticism of Orbán's policies. However, now that conservative governments are miffed, too, EPP MEPs may change tune, too.
  • In Fidesz's propaganda, while general Euroscepticism and cursing at 'commands from Brussels' did appear, up until now, every effort was made to paint all criticism from the EU as an ideologically motivated leftist campaign, ignoring that some of the harshest critics, namely Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding, weren't leftist. But now even Merkel voiced (muted) criticism and Reding is louder than Martin Schulz, thus this fantasy can't be maintained for much longer.
  • On the other hand, whatever the EU will do will be too late too little and no substitute for active domestic opposition. Among supporters of the current democratic opposition, I sense a widespread illusory hope that 'the EU' will eventually step in and put an end to this. But you just have to look at Greece to measure Commission and Council commitment to democracy.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 19th, 2013 at 07:12:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. I suspect it would take "tanks in the streets" before the EU got serious about this. In the meantime any threats to EU Treaties/policies may result in warning noises. I suspect and regret that real change will depend on democratic opposition forces acting almost without any support - until prominent people start getting killed...

I wouldn't underestimate the power of opposition figures lobbying EP parliamentarians directly via email/social media about what is happening and keeping a daily newsflow coming out of Hungary. Many EP members will be quite supportive on human rights issues regardless of their economic ideological leanings.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 19th, 2013 at 07:23:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not like that's not being done. For the previous round of EU attention to Hungary, read EP vs. Fidesz-Hungary: Not Lost in Translation, and the comment with the naming and shaming of EPP MEPs in the 18 January 2012 EP debate.

I also forgot to link to this; but a better summary of early March EU reactions is below:

Hungary throws down gauntlet to EU | European Voice

...Thorbjørn Jagland, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, has said that some of the amendments introduced today reintroduce legal provisions annulled by the constitutional court.

He said last Wednesday (6 March) that the return of these clauses endangered "the fundamental principle of checks and balances in a democracy".

His declaration prompted José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, to call and write to Orbán on Friday. The United States also said on Friday that the amendments - now approved - could threaten "the principles of institutional independence".

...No leading EU politician or official has explicitly called for EU to be stripped of its voting rights in the EU's institutions, though Swoboda said that the EU might need "to make use of all measures available".

Four foreign ministers - from Germany, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands - on Wednesday (7 March) said that the European Union needed a "a new and more effective mechanism to safeguard fundamental values in member states is needed".



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 20th, 2013 at 06:39:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Western democracies (on both sides of the Atlantic) have traditionally backed any tinpot, fascist dictator as long as the banks stayed open for investors and the borders stayed open for trade.
by rifek on Tue Apr 9th, 2013 at 08:47:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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