According to a Reuters report, Czech EU Affairs Minister Mikulás Bek has called on Hungary to take action to improve its rule of law situation before receiving EU recovery funds.
The EU is withholding finances both from Poland and Hungary on the pretext of human rights violations, judicial independence deficiencies, or respect for LGBTQ rights, but many in the two countries see this political pressuring for resisting Brussels’ drive for an ever closer European integration, as well as matters concerning migration policy.
In Bek’s view there is no willingness in the European Commission to compromise with Hungary at all, and Budapest must fully implement Brussel’s demands if it wants to see its funds delivered. “I am not sure that dialogue can facilitate anything in this matter (anymore),” he remarked.
Bek, member of the liberal Mayors and Independents (STAN) which has entered the 2021 election in a common platform with the radical leftist Pirates movement, has never hidden his skepticism towards the V4 cooperation between his country, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Shortly after the elections in October last year, he set out as his goal to review the Visegrad 4 alliance, and re-orient his government’s foreign policy towards Brussels. As he put it,
the cooperation between the four countries is “overrated.”
Bek’s own political career can explain to a certain point some of his hostility towards the two remaining conservative governments in Europe. In 1988 he had applied for membership to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, only for the party to be disbanded during the 1989 Velvet Revolution before his application could be processed. His ideologically fed hostility towards the Hungarian government has in the past led both PM Petr Fiala and President Milos Zeman to come out with corrective statements reaffirming the importance of the regional alliance. Recently he has also warned that PM Viktor Orbán’s speech delivered in Romania’s Tusnádfürdő will have “political consequences.”
Bek is not the only Czech liberal politician calling for radical punitive measures against both Poland and Hungary. In a recent article, the German newsportal Der Spiegel reported on the tensions between Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Czech Commissioner Vera Jourová. Von der Leyen’s frustration sprang from the fact that Jourová had undermined her efforts to settle the question of recovery funds with Poland through a compromise agreement. Jourová favors a more uncompromising stance towards Poland than the head of the Commission, and has for now successfully blocked the signing of the deal with Warsaw. Jourová is also one of the most vocal critics of the Hungarian government who, alongside Bek, wants to punish Hungary for alleged violations by means of withholding European funds from Budapest.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala himself has made a serious U-turn since he has to rely on the support of his liberal coalition partners. Fiala was one of the few European politicians who visited Hungary’s southern border during the 2015 migrant crisis, and expressed his support for the fence that was being built. Even in 2018, when the government of Viktor Orbán won a landslide election, he called for respecting the will of the Hungarian people and spoke against the criticism towards a democratically elected European government. All this, only to show disrespect himself by not congratulating Orbán on another win after the April elections in Hungary. This was left to Czech president Milos Zeman, a long-term supporter and friend of the Hungarian Prime Minister.
Featured Photo: Facebook Mikulás Bek