Ahead of the vote about a draft report demanding the withholding of EU funds from Hungary, members of the European Parliament held a debate about rule of law in the country.
On Wednesday, the European Parliament discussed a draft report by French MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Greens/EFA) on Hungary at its plenary session in Strasbourg.
The draft text was adopted by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) in July. It declares that “Hungary can no longer be considered a full democracy, as democracy and fundamental rights in the country have deteriorated further since Parliament triggered the Article 7 procedure in 2018.” The LIBE committee says that further delay in the Article 7 process would amount to a rule of law breach by the Council of the EU. It urges the European Commission to withhold recovery funds to Hungary until it complies with recommendations and court rulings.
Speaking to Hungarian journalists last week, Jean-Paul Garraud, an MEP of the French National Rally, called the LIBE draft report “fake,” and the Identity and Democracy (ID) group condemns it in the strongest terms. He said that the ID group would present an alternative proposal in favor of Hungary.
“Even if unfortunately I am not in a position today to report back any positive developments, I do hope that the ongoing procedure will give the Hungarian authorities the opportunity to provide adequate and suitable responses to the concerns voiced,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said at the Wednesday debate.
Most of the representatives of the different political groups spoke either very strongly against, or for Hungary. Members of the left-leaning groups urged other EU institutions to impose harder sanctions on Hungary.
“We expect the Commission to do their part of the work. You are not doing enough. You have to step up,” Swedish radical left-wing MEP Malin Björk said. She added that later this month she will go to “Hungary to celebrate lesbian visibility and rights and stand up for women’s rights and LGBTI rights in Hungary.”
According to German green MEP Daniel Freund, “Hungary is not a functioning democracy anymore, and Hungary does not respect the fundamental values that all Member States agreed on to overcome war, despotism and state terror.” “I am afraid neither the Commission nor the Council must fall for false promises now, because just a few reforms, maybe an anti-corruption body, all this is not going to remedy what Orbán has done in the last 12 years,” he said.
“We should be creative, apply smart conditionality so that the Hungarian citizens are not deprived of the benefits of the EU funds, because they are very important,” Valentina Strugariu, a Romanian member of the Renew group stressed.
“Not Hungary, but the European Union is trampling on European values. Not Hungary, but the European Union does not respect the democratic rule of law,” Tom Vandendriessche, Belgian member of the Identity and Democracy group said. According to the Vlaams Belang politician, the EU’s punitive measures against Hungary are “a warning to all other Member States.” “Someday they will come after you. Hungary and Viktor Orbán only stand in their way,” he added.
“Today Hungary, tomorrow Poland. The day after that, we do not know,” Spanish MEP Jorge Buxade said. According to the politician of the VOX party (member of the European Conservatives and Reformists) the parliament’s majority cannot accept the result of the Hungarian elections. He said that Delbos-Corfield’s report is unable to identify a single violation of the rule of law in Hungary. “Stop interfering in national affairs. Only take care of your own competences and defend Europe. And if you do not know how, go away and make way for us,” he said.
Harald Vilimsky, MEP of the Austrian Freedom Party (ID group), recalled that he served as an observer in the last parliamentary elections, and he could see that “these elections were conducted according to high standards and certainly without any manipulation.” “This is not about questions of the rule of law in Hungary, nor in Poland,” he noted. According to Vilimsky, Hungary and Poland are being “disciplined with EU funds” because they have conservative, center-right governments which are against migration and the further centralization of the EU. “What is wrong with a politician wanting to protect his country’s borders against illegal migration? What is wrong with a politician like Viktor Orbán, who was elected by a majority of his electorate, prioritizing the interests of his electorate? It is the duty of every politician to act in this way,” he said. “Stop this Hungary-bashing and treat Hungary as a worthy member of the European family of nations,” he concluded.
Fidesz MEP Balázs Hidvéghi called it shameful that a part of the parliament, together with Hungarian left-wing MEPs, continues its political smear campaign against Hungary even in a crisis situation. “Do you not think we have more important things to do?” he asked. Referring to the issue of the EU funds, Hidvéghi said that it is possible to negotiate and find agreement with the Hungarian government if that is the goal, but instead of finding a solution, the Commission wants to blackmail Hungary. “You cannot accept that for the fourth time this spring, Hungarians said no to the Hungarian left side and Brussels’ lecturing,” he added.
Hungarian Christian Democrat MEP György Hölvényi called the report
a “Hungarophobic political pamphlet, a declaration that lacks objectivity.”
“You don’t need to be a biased party politician or a political scientist to see clearly that the increasingly radicalized European left wants to put Hungary under its tutelage,” he said, adding that “unfortunately, they also make the European Parliament’s role in the eyes of the European electorate frivolous.” “All this in the midst of war, unemployment, and a food crisis,” Hölvényi noted.
Katalin Cseh, MEP of the Hungarian opposition Momentum party (member of the Renew group), said that the report “…only gives us a little bit more reason to keep on fighting.” She said that she is glad for the report, “this is a step forward.” “I am very worried about the highly non-transparent backroom dealings the Commission has been conducting with the Hungarian government,” she added, referring to the negotiations about the withheld EU funds.
Hungarian Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi accused the Orbán government of incompetence, dismantling the rule of law, immense state-level corruption, and “serving Putin as a vassal.” He said that Hungarians are entitled to the EU funds but the money is “not for the Orbán government to steal it.”
MEPs will vote on the draft report on Thursday.
Featured photo via the European Parliament