The National Assembly has adopted a proposal for a resolution by the government parties on EU economic measures related to the economic effects of the coronavirus. The resolution sets conditions for the government on how they can support the European Union’s recovery package aiming to mitigate the economic damage caused by the coronavirus epidemic, namely to make it a condition for poorer countries to receive at least as much money as richer ones, and that the ongoing Article 7 procedure against Hungary must be concluded before the loan package is approved.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in the National Assembly approved the resolution proposed by the ruling parties regarding the European Union’s coronavirus recovery package. The resolution calls on the government to make its support of the loan package conditional on poorer countries getting at least as much money as richer ones.
It also says that the ongoing Article 7 procedure against Hungary must be concluded before the loan package is approved and that EU funds cannot be used to fund political parties or “organizations posing as civil groups carrying out political activities.” The resolution adds that the package must be “depoliticized” to ensure that it is not tied to the issue of the rule of law.
The resolution was passed with 128 votes in favor (government parties), 16 against (Jobbik), and one abstention. With the exception of Jobbik, no other opposition parties voted on the resolution.
In his exposition at the National Assembly, House Speaker László Kövér of Fidesz stated that the National Assembly will not accept any political conditions attached to the European Union’s recovery package. He emphasized that if EU Member States take out a loan jointly, they would also have to decide on the terms jointly.
He emphasized that Hungary would not need this loan, as the country would be able to recover from the current economic difficulties on its own, but it is willing to contribute out of solidarity with the southern Member States and as a “one-off, exceptional means of emergency” in order to maintain the functioning of the EU. However, it is subject to certain conditions.
He added that the EU Commission has drawn up a recovery plan that does not take into account countries’ ‘gross national product per capita, the size of the countries, or the differences in the countries’ economic problems. Thus, Kövér thinks it is unfair “favoring richer countries over poorer ones,” and “punishes countries that create order with a prudent policy, while it rewards countries that put themselves in debt with undisciplined fiscal policy.” In addition, Kövér said it is again “about the ego of the Brussels bureaucracy: they want to make it seem once again they know what a good solution is.”
Gergely Gulyás, Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, underlined in his speech that both the government and the Prime Minister will consider the decision of the National Assembly a binding mandate. Explaining the position of the cabinet, he said that Hungary is a good ally and that its solidarity extends to the point of being ready to contribute to a move that is foreign to the policy of the Hungarian government.
Gulyás also called the allegations that there were problems with the rule of law in Hungary untrue. He put it as the “rule of law condition” is a “political jerk” with which Western European countries try to impose political sanctions on Central European countries that do not agree with them.
Presenting the position of the major governing party, Tamás Deutsch, head of Fidesz’ European Parliament (EP) delegation, said that the EUR 750 billion EU loan proposal in its current form was unacceptable to the Hungarian people because it distributed resources unfairly. He emphasized that the condition on the rule of law was fraudulent, as it was in fact a means of arbitrary political blackmail against the Member States in the hands of the Brussels bureaucracy. He said that “the rule of law mechanism serves the cause of the rule of law just as much as the socialist democracy served the cause of democracy during the communist era.”
Deutsch added that the opposition is “behaving like Brussels-based eager beavers,” and is using all its energy to take as many resources as possible from the Hungarian people. “They do not want to de-Orbánize, but to de-Hungarianize the EU funds that belong to us,” he said.
The opposition Párbeszéd party announced on Tuesday that they will not vote on the draft resolution regarding the European Union’s recovery package aimed to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic. The party’s deputy group leader, Bence Tordai called the draft resolution a “blackmail note,” saying that it only served to improve “[Prime Minister] Viktor Orban’s negotiating position.”
Benedek Jávor, the party’s advisor in EU affairs, said the ruling parties were “lying” when saying that the recovery package would be mostly financed from loans. Most of the money would come from taxes and tolls “that have been on the agenda for years,” he said. Jávor added that the EU proposal’s passages on long-term financial commitment would increase European solidarity and serve states with smaller revenues and weaker economies.
The proposed mechanism on the rule of law is “essentially an anti-corruption package,” Jávor said, insisting that ruling Fidesz’s rejection was a “confession.” Párbeszéd is working to include resources into the package that are directly available for local governments, SMEs, civil organizations, and other economic players, he said.
Tordai said they essentially do not have a problem with the loan package, as they think “we don’t have to pursue austerity policies when there is a crisis,” and they say the only player who can get money on good terms is the EU.
Otherwise, with regard to the repayment of the loan, they would be in favor if the Union would not increase Member States’ contributions but rather have its own resources, for example by imposing taxes on certain activities, such as customs duties on goods from third-party countries. Overall, Párbeszéd think it would be better if the states didn’t become more indebted, “but the EU shares responsibility and solidarity.”
Democratic Coalition (DK)
Gergely Arató, deputy head of the DK’s parliamentary faction, said that this “was a puppet theater, a superfluous stunt exclusively for domestic political purposes,” as the government has the authority and responsibility to represent Hungary in the European Council without the proposed resolution. Moreover, according to Arató, inconsistent elements were thrown together in the proposal, so it was not possible to express a substantive opinion on it.
On the other hand, DK supports the joint loan. According to Arató, the whole European Union and Hungary need this type of economic stimulus, although there are debatable details that could be altered. At the same time, the 2008 economic crisis showed that resources needed to be devoted to helping long-term economic recovery.
Just like other opposition parties, with the exception of Jobbik, the Socialists did not vote on the resolution either. Ildikó Bangó Borbély, a member of the party, said that as her fellow MP said at the Assembly, despite the fact that the Socialist party submitted an amendment to the resolution proposal of the governing parties, they voted it down. However, some of MSZP’s amendments may have been familiar to Fidesz, as they included some elements of Fidesz’s 2009 EP program, for example, Hungary’s accession to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Bangó Borbély added that “it is especially revolting that they said no to those values that were still important to Fidesz in 2009.” Thus, according to the MP, the Socialists did not want to take part in the “play,” in which Orbán is blackmailing EU countries. On the other hand, MSZP also agrees with the loan package, as Bangó Borbély put it, they agree to provide assistance to member states in trouble, and one possible way to do this is through financial assistance.
Opposition LMP did not vote on the resolution either. László Lóránt Keresztes, leader of the LMP faction, said that they did not vote because “we could not have voted yes or no, so in this situation it was clearest if we did not vote.” The LMP also objects to the large joint EU loan itself, as they believe that this will trap young Hungarian people in debt, who will have to repay this loan together with the loans taken out for the expansion of Paks power plant, and the construction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line.
Therefore, the LMP would only support the loan package if it “did not invest in concrete, but in human resources” and aimed at reducing territorial and wage disparities between core and peripheral countries. In comparison, the LMP does not see “the great freedom fighter policy” at Fidesz, saying government parties have also blended into the EU elite and the LMP is confident that they will agree to the loan package through background bargaining.
Jobbik was the only opposition party that voted ‘no,’ rather than not voting at all on the resolution. In his speech, Jobbik MP Zoltán Baczó drew attention to the fact that before EU summits, the Speaker and the Prime Minister usually convene the Consultative Board. At such times, the Prime Minister will report on the position of the government in the Council of Europe. However, this wasn’t the case now. Balczó asked whether this happened because “the two pro-government factions no longer trust the prime minister, or because Viktor Orbán needs a parliamentary resolution?”
According to the Jobbik representative, the content of the proposal which called the Hungarian economy successful, is contradictory, as it classifies Hungary among the poorer countries. At the same time, the figures in fact show that the country is among the poorer countries and will have to repay EUR 7.5 billion from this package. He added that Jobbik, in addition to the criticisms, also tried to constructively modify the proposal, therefore they submitted two amendments.
In his speech, Péter Jakab, the president of Jobbik, said that “Viktor Orbán is preparing for another performance in Brussels and now he wants to use the Hungarian parliament as an extra.” However, according to the politician, “the Hungarian parliament is not a decoration that should assist the prime minister in his play.” Thus, the party voted against the resolution.
featured photo: illustration (Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI)