France took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union on January 1, so the French President presented his EU objectives for the next six months in his launch speech in Strasbourg. Emmanuel Macron, among other things, talked about the importance of the rule of law and mentioned Hungary as well.
Although he mentioned many topics, such as calling for a more autonomous and sovereign EU, defining the EU’s identity, the EU’s relations with Russia, the importance of defending the EU’s external borders, etc., the strongest message of Macron’s speech was probably regarding the rule of law. He said that it is “not an invention by Brussels,” and that “the end of the rule of law is the beginning of authoritarianism.”
“We are a generation that is discovering again how democracy and rule of law can be made fragile,” he said, adding that the rule of law has recently been under pressure in Poland and Hungary, which has resulted in hearings of the Council of the European Union (in February and March, respectively).
They also accused PM Orbán of reducing Hungary to a zone of Russian and Chinese influence.Continue reading
As the European Parliament’s website mentions, not everyone seemed to agree with Macron’s ideas on the different topics, with several speakers demanding “progress on rule of law issues concerning Hungary and Poland.”
Fidesz MEP Deutsch: French presidency should drop double standards and blackmail
Tamás Deutsch, Hungarian MEP from Fidesz, said “We expect the rotating French presidency of the (European) Council to stop applying double standards and political blackmail.” The French approach, under which “national sovereignty should be replaced by a European one” is “tragic and unacceptable,” Deutsch said. The Fidesz politician slammed French President Emmanuel Macron, the proponent of the program, for “vehemently attacking earlier member states that strived to lawfully protect their borders against illegal migrants,” adding that “now he stresses the importance of protecting external borders.” He added, however, that ensuring “an external sovereignty based on strong sovereignty of member states” is crucial in terms of the community’s security and energy policy, MTI reports.
The French President said he was aware that rule of law is a "sensitive issue" for the V4 countries, however, emphasizing that rule of law is "vital" for Europe.Continue reading
EPP leader Weber tired of “hearing same speech every six months;” urges EU to act against Orbán
According to Telex, Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, said that “every six months we hear the same thing” when the presidencies of the Council take over, even though “Putin’s intentions” have been known for a long time. He says the EU needs to be more effective both in its foreign policy and in its internal affairs. “There is the Article 7 procedure, for example: we are publishing a series of condemnatory press releases, while in the Council they are still negotiating with Viktor Orbán. It is time to act.”
Iratxe García Pérez, speaking on behalf of the S&D group, stressed that the European Commission should not pass either the Hungarian or the Polish recovery plans “until the Member States return to the path of democracy.”
Hungary’s opposition MEPs also urge Macron to treat alleged rule of law problems in Hungary with a heavy hand
Partly echoing Weber’s words, Jobbik MEP Márton Gyöngyösi also doubted that Macron emphasizing his commitment to rule of law and against autocratic tendencies will be translated into actual action. “I was glad to hear what Macron said about the priorities of the French presidency back in December last year. Then a few days later, he met Viktor Orbán, the Trojan horse who undermines European sovereignty and works closely with Putin.”
Commentators on both sides of the political divide see both room for cooperation and opposition between French President Macron and Hungarian PM Orbán.Continue reading
The French presidency should also give priority to the democratic problems in Poland and Hungary, according to Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh of Momentum: “The Pegasus case is the European Watergate scandal. Hardly anyone knows this better than Macron because he was also targeted by it – even though it should never have happened in the European Union.”
Macron’s full speech can be watched below:
Featured image: French President Emmanuel Macron presents his six-month EU presidency program in the European Parliament’s chamber in Strasbourg on January 19, 2022. Photo by Julien Warnand/MTI/EPA