Hungarian Press Roundup: Article 7 Procedure against Hungary
Hungary Today 2019.09.19.
After a rule of law hearing about Hungary in Brussels on Monday, a pro-government commentator finds it strange that Hungary and other ‘new’ member states are criticised for alleged violations of democratic values. He claims that democratic decline is more prevalent in the West than in the East of the continent. Meanwhile, a left-wing commentator predicts that the EU will not punish Hungary for the violation of basic democratic norms. He accuses the EU leadership of putting their political interests before the defence of core European values.
Background information: The General Affairs Council of the EU, consisting of cabinet ministers of member countries in charge of EU matters, heard Hungary’s Minister of Justice Judit Varga under Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which prescribes a long procedure that might result in the loss of voting rights if a country is found in serious violation of basic EU norms. Meanwhile, certain member states are contemplating making EU financial support conditional on rule of law compliance.
Magyar Nemzet’s Levente Sitkei, commenting on the latter, contends that democratic decline is prevalent in Western Europe rather than in new member states. The pro-government commentator suggests that rich and powerful Western European states are themselves the ‘gravediggers’ of democracy. Sitkei recalls that governments have been fragile in Belgium, Italy and Spain, while politics in the UK has departed from democratic norms and turned into a farce. He finds it absurd for such countries to criticize Central European governments for the alleged violation of democratic rules.
In a bitter commentary on the Article 7 procedure hearings, Népszava’s Róbert Friss contends that Prime Minister Orbán ‘is winning the battle’ as the EU is unlikely to punish the Hungarian government either by withholding funds or suspending its voting rights. The left-wing columnist thinks that the EU lacks the tools as well as the willingness to defend democratic values and core EU norms in Hungary. Friss speculates that EC President von der Leyen has been conciliatory towards the Hungarian government in an attempt not to further alienate it and ‘hand it over to Moscow’.