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Not ‘Smile Diplomacy’: Finnish PM to Visit Orbán after Rough Rule of Law Debate

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.09.03.

Antti Rinne, the prime minister of Finland, which currently holds the European Union presidency, will come to Budapest in late September and meet Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The Finnish-Hungarian diplomatic relations have been quite frosty in recent months, thus the joint press conference after the PM’s meeting might hold some interesting developments.

Diplomatic tension has been growing between the two EU Member States in recent months, as the Hungarian government has resented that the Finnish EU Presidency (begun in July) would focus on issues regarding the rule of law.

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According to Euronews, this also means Finland intends to push the Article 7 procedure against Hungary, and is working to tie the transfer of the EU funds to the state of the rule of law.

First, Zoltán Kovács, the state secretary for international communications and relations, condemned Finland’s double standards against Hungary and Poland in an article, stating that the country is „not exactly a champion in the rule of law,” listing several points of “concern around Finnish rule of law.”

In his annual address at the Tusványos summer university in July, PM Orbán also noted that there is no constitutional court in Finland, the Finnish Academy of Sciences operates under the control of the Minister of Education, and judges are appointed by the head of state based on the suggestion of the Minister of Justice, and asked what would happen if Hungary were to introduce these measures.

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Therefore we need a nervous system, a strong nervous system, to enable us to show due respect, and answer questions politely – not with a smile or a laugh – when our Finnish friends ask us about and delve into the rule of law in Hungary,”

the prime minister stated.

Later, pro-government media also published numerous articles concerning the state of the Finnish press freedom and media pluralism.

On the other hand, Finnish Green party Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, even announced that he would like to speak with his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó about these articles heavily criticizing the Finnish legal system and freedom of the press also containing “false information.”

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“Behind the accusations in Hungary, there seems to be the idea that an attack is the best defense. This is not normal interaction between EU countries,” said Haavisto.

At the beginning of August, Former Ambassador of Finland in Budapest, Petri Tuomi-Nikula, wrote a commentary about the Hungarian government’s attacks on Finland, liberal news portal 444.hu reported.

According to the Ambassador, Finland’s main goal during its 6 month-long EU presidency is to strengthen the rule of law,  and Orbán knows this, that’s why he is attacking them with “imaginary” accusations.

The ambassador also claims in the article that Hungary „is one of the most corrupt countries in the Union,” adding that the country “has become a one-man and one-party monarchy,” or a “hybrid autocracy.”

Featured photo by Lajos Sóos/MTI