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State Secy Kovács: Rule of Law Debate Not about European Values but Politics and Ideology

MTI-Hungary Today 2020.10.22.

Proponents of the idea of tying European Union budget allocations to member states’ respect for the rule of law are unable to define what that mechanism should be and are simply waging an ideological battle, Zoltan Kovács, the state secretary for international communications, wrote in an op-ed for Brussels-based news portal Euractiv.

One of the reasons for the current debate around the EU’s next multi-year budget is that certain member states “continue to push for the so-called conditionality mechanism, which would place conditions on budget allocations to member states based on nebulous rule-of-law criteria”, Kovács wrote.

The European Council decisively rejected this idea at a meeting in July, he said. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he added, affirmed that a rule-of-law mechanism would require the consent of all member states as well as an amendment of the EU treaties, the state secretary wrote.

Kovács said the move was “dead on arrival”, arguing that when its proponents were asked to define what they meant by the rule of law and how it could be measured, “what you get in response is a lot of subjective muddle”.

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“But none of this deters the rule of law warriors, who wage this campaign like an ideological struggle,” he wrote. “If they cannot use objective criteria and reasonable argument to support their cause, they bend the details to make their case.”

Citing opposition Momentum Movement MEP Anna Donáth’s recent op-ed for Euractiv, Kovács accused the MEP of attempting to “alter the scope of the rule of law debate”. He challenged Donáth’s claim that Hungarian democracy “contains no real limitations to the exercise of power” saying that elections remained “the most fundamental means to exercise — and limit — power”.

The state secretary also cited reports based on a leaked video showing Donáth “boasting about having informal consultations with European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova ‘at least every three days in order to ensure that the Hungarian government’s decisions have political consequences'”.

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Kovács insisted that “rule of law warriors like MEP Donáth” were “political actors with a political agenda”.

Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI