In an unprecedented move, the European Parliament voted today a resolution stating that Hungary, given its rule of law record, is unfit to hold the European Union presidency next year.
The resolution raises concerns, among others, over the Hungarian government’s habit of ruling by emergency decrees, which limits citizens’ rights, over a failed judicial reform and a surge in the excessive use of force and arbitrary detention by the Hungarian police during recent protests, in particular towards minors and elected politicians. It also mentions the country’s irregularities and misuse of EU funds.
With today’s vote, the European Parliament’s message is clear: the Hungarian presidency would weaken the EU, and it asks the Council to protect the Union and its fundamental rights.
Left MEP Malin Björk (Vänsterpartiet, Sweden) commented on the vote:
“I am happy that a firm majority backed the resolution. It is a clear message to the governments in the Council that we cannot have a country which is no longer classified as a democracy to lead the EU. I also hope this firm message is a wake-up call for the Hungarian government to reinstall democracy in their country. I would be happy to welcome Hungary back as the head of the EU once it lives up to the criteria of rule of law and fundamental rights.”
The resolution asks the Council, should Hungary fail to take clear measures to improve the rule of law, to find a proper solution for the EU presidency as soon as possible. If such a solution is not found, the Parliament could take appropriate measures, such as putting trilogues on hold or not inviting Hungarian ministers to committee work and meetings.
It will be the first time an EU country that has been under scrutiny for years following the Article 7 procedure, will take over the rotating presidency of the Council.
Yet over the years, Hungary has been in the spotlight for its constant violation of the rule of law. The first European Parliament resolution on the deterioration of democracy in Hungary dates back to 2011.
Hungary is the only member state whose EU funds have been suspended due to concerns over the rule of law and democratic backsliding. Just in September last year, the European Parliament passed a resolution declaring Hungary is no longer a democracy. It was the first time an EU institution labelled Hungary an “electoral autocracy,” putting pressure on the Commission and Council to take more aggressive action against the Orbán regime.
While Orbán did nothing to address these issues and kept treating the EU as his cash machine, it is high time for the EU to take decisive action.