The European Commission cannot afford to involve itself in partisan politics, as this would eventually tear the European Union apart, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said in a discussion with Andras Schiffer, the opposition LMP party’s former leader, on Thursday.
In the discussion on the future of the EU at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium festival in Esztergom, in northern Hungary, Gulyás said there was no alternative to institutionalised cooperation among the nations in today’s globalised world. This, he added, required a shared set of rules.
Gulyás insisted, at the same time, that the EC had lately been ignoring what it was allowed and not allowed to do according to the law. He said the commission was “serving political needs” even if this meant trampling over EU law.
Schiffer said the “real conflict” shaping the future of the bloc was between democratic decision-making and “corporations’ hunger for profit”.
“The question is whether we’ll have a world in which profits come before the interests of the people and nature, or if human communities will be strong enough to keep capital in check,” Schiffer said. This requires strong nation-states and strong cooperation among them, he added.
PMO Head Gergely Gulyás (on the right) and András Schiffer (on the left). Photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI
Schiffer criticised the structure of the EU for “tying together” countries with different levels of development. A different kind of Europe is needed that allows less developed member states to deviate from the rules on certain issues, he said. In these member states, land should not be subject to the principle of the free movement of capital, but the rules on matters like wages, labour protection and environmental protection should stay as they are, he added.
Meanwhile, Schiffer said it would be “particularly dangerous” to introduce the euro in Hungary, arguing that the “gap between the core and semi-peripheral countries” was wider in the euro zone.
As regards the EC’s launch of an infringement procedure against Hungary over its “child protection law,” Gulyás said the proceedings lacked a legal basis, arguing that education was a national competency.
“So the question of whether or not the regulation is good is a legitimate one on the part of the opposition, but the EU has nothing to do with this,” he said.
Schiffer partly agreed, saying that the government should have consulted with the EC on its amendment of the advertisement law. He said that although the EC’s criticisms of the part of the law banning the “popularisation of homosexuality” were valid, the dispute over the law was primarily a domestic political conflict.
Asked if the government would consider amending the law, Gulyás said that if the referendum on child protection issues will be valid, the government will be bound by it.
On the topic of the Norway Grants funds, Gulyás said it was “outrageous” that Norway was refusing to meet its commitments and wanted to tell Hungary “which organisations linked to George Soros” it should distribute the funds to. The funds from the Norway Grants are not “handouts”, but rather money that Hungary is owed, he said, arguing that Norway was “enjoying the benefits of the European single market while not being a member of the EU”. The EC should stand up for Hungary on this issue, Gulyás added.
Schiffer said the monies from the Norway Grants and EU funds were a tool the EU could use to “make certain countries see reason”.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI