Hungarian Government, Opposition Parties, React to European Parliament Resolution
Tom Szigeti 2017.05.18.
Yesterday, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Union to launch Article 7 procedures against Hungary due to what Members (MEPs) see as “serious deterioration of rule of law and democracy” in the country. Naturally, this has triggered reactions in Hungary among both government and opposition politicians.
Commenting on yesterday’s events, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó blamed the EP vote on billionaire (and perennial Fidesz boogeyman) George Soros, claiming that the resolution is ‘another attack’ on the Fidesz-KDNP ruling coalition by the Hungarian-American financier.
Further laying blame at the feet of George Soros, Szijjártó referred to a 2013 EP report that was critical of the Hungarian as being one of the causes of yesterday’s resolution, which, among other things, calls on
the Hungarian Government to repeal laws tightening rules against asylum-seekers and non-governmental organizations, and to reach an agreement with the US authorities, making it possible for Central European University to remain in Budapest as a free institution.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister said of the 2013 report, prepared by Portuguese green MEP Rui Tavares, “we’ve had the Tavares Report, now comes the Soros Report.”
Speaking to Hungarian wire service MTI, Szijjártó claimed that it is now clear that European institutions cannot accept that “Hungary’s government resists all international pressure and focuses on the security of the Hungarian people.”
No matter “what type of pressure they want to put on us” and no matter what reports that the EP approves, the Hungarian government will keep its focus on Hungarians’ security, he said, adding that everyone can rest assured that “no illegal migrants will be allowed to set foot in Hungary.”
In a similar fashion, Fidesz-KDNP MEPs likewise blasted the European Parliament vote as a “shocking political attack” which they reject.
Responding to the vote, Fidesz-KDNP MEPs claimed that the resolution, submitted by a group of left-wing MEPs, “clearly aims to force Hungary to accept illegal migrants.”
They described the text as “farfetched from reality and containing several distortions” resulting in an assessment procedure that could in effect influence next year’s elections in Hungary. At the same time, they welcomed the fact that despite the “continual pressure by pro-migration George Soros”, a significant number of MEPs did not support the “mendacious accusations of the left” and voted for a balanced assessment.
The MEPs further claimed that the Hungarian government is open to dialogue with the European Commission about all contested legislation, but will not give up its policy to reject illegal migration. Referring to the EU’s controversial refugee resettlement scheme, the MEPS said that “Only Hungarians can decide whom they want to live with in Hungary” (under the current plan, Hungary would take in a total of 1294 refugees).
The resolution passed in the parliament with 393 votes in favor, 221 opposed, and 64 abstaining. Of these, 67 members of Fidesz’s own EP grouping, the conservative European People’s Party, also supported the resolution calling for an investigation into whether the Orbán government has breached EU values through its actions.
In addition, all Hungarian opposition parties, with the exception of the far-right Jobbik, supported the resolution.
State Secretary for Education Calls Resolution a “Political Decision”
At a press briefing today, Hungary’s state secretary for education, László Palkovics, described the resolution’s invocation of Article 7 as “a political decision,” and claimed that recent amendments to Hungary’s higher education law, widely known as the “Lex CEU”, do not need to be modified.
Speaking at a press conference on an unrelated topic at the University of Debrecen, Palkovics claimed that the “Lex CEU” is, in fact, not aimed at the Central European University, but rather “aims to regulate several institutes, and is in harmony with the constitution as well as basic EU values.”
He added that the Hungarian government received messages on the topic of CEU from the European Commission three weeks ago, to which the government is now going to respond.
Opposition Parties Blame Orbán Government
The opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) said that yesterday’s vote shows that Europe as a whole is “fed up with” the actions of the Hungarian government.
Party leader Gyula Molnár claimed that, with this resolution, the European Parliament has sent a clear message to the Orbán government, adding that the vote was a result of the government’s “antidemocratic decisions” such as the ongoing “attack” against academic freedom and upcoming legislation that targets NGOs.
Going further, Molnár said that the process of suspending Hungary’s voting rights within the EU has begun, which he described as “an unprecedented situation.”
Rejecting Fidesz claims that George Soros is somehow behind yesterday’s resolution, the Socialist leader said that “the decision was made not by Brussels and not by US financier George Soros but by the EP, with support from conservatives as well.” He added that, from this moment, it is clear that what’s at stake in the 2018 Hungarian elections will be a choice between Viktor Orbán and Europe itself.
Echoing this theme, left-wing opposition party Democratic Coalition (DK) spokesman Zsolt Gréczy said that if Orbán remained Prime Minister after next year’s election, then Hungary could “bid farewell to its EU membership.” He also emphasized the fact that the resolution was supported by MEPs from Fidesz’s own EP grouping, the European People’s Party, arguing that this showed that Orbán is “left without supporters in Europe.”