“We need to show to Europe that there might be an alternative interpretation,” Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga told British daily news Guardian when asked about the new rule of law institute which some weeks ago the Hungarian and Polish governments announced they would establish. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that the aim of the institute is to “prevent the application of double standards on Poland and Hungary” by analyzing the situation in other countries as well.
According to the Justice Minister “…we need to show Europe that there might be an alternative interpretation (…) we think that in order to be better understood we need to enhance what our position is in many crucial legal questions which form the future of Europe,” Varga explained.
“If you look at central Europe, there is a very strong conservative policy being formulated. We share the same view on family policy and what we think about certain liberal ideologies. We see that all these ideologies are affecting the interpretation of the same rights,” Varga claimed, also adding that “It’s a red line that rule of law should not be mixed up with any kind of budgetary conditionality.” She also said she hopes to bring other countries in the region into the initiative.
While according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “…the aim of the institute is not to be taken for fools.” It would “prevent the application of double standards to Poland and Hungary” by analyzing the situation in other countries, too, Péter Szijjártó added.
The Guardian also cites critics of the move by the two governments, one claiming that the institute will only serve as a distraction mechanism. “It builds on one of their regular tricks, which consists of selectively using foreign examples or comparative law to distract and mislead with the aim of leading to generalized whataboutism,” Laurent Pech, a law professor at the University of Middlesex commented.
This comes on the heels of recent ongoing debates within the EU about tying EU fund payments to the democratic values and rule of law criteria. Both countries are regularly criticized in relevant reports in addition to the ongoing article 7 procedures, and to the corruption accusations Hungarian officials regularly face. While both Poland and Hungary firmly oppose the conditionality of payments saying that its based on political disagreement and not on actual rule of law concerns, many in the EU on the other hand, want stricter punishments in case of infringements and regularly criticize the two of making a mockery of EU values. In addition, certain EU countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark are pushing for even tougher sanctions and stricter procedures.
The EU will return to negotiations on the next budget in the coming weeks.
featured image via Benko Vivien Cher/MTI/PM’s Press Office