The Council must take action against Hungary in response to policies of the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that threaten citizens’ fundamental rights, MEPs argued in a debate today at the European Parliament.
Tomorrow’s vote on a resolution, if passed by a two third majority, will force the Council to examine violations of Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union, which state EU core values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This will bring Hungary’s government on another collision course with the EU.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was present in the debate to argue for his case but struggled to face his appalling record as documented in the carefully drafted resolution, which GUE/NGL supports. They range from racist and xenophobic policies against refugees and members of minorities to attacks on NGOs and the free press.
MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat (Front de Gauche, France) defended the European Parliament resolution, which has been under fierce attack by the Orbán-allied media:
“It is easy to slander this resolution. I invite those who believe that the rule of law has a place in democracy to read Ms. Sargentini's report. There are only facts based on reports from the Council of Europe and the United Nations. There are no attacks on the Hungarian people, nor against Hungary.”
“We only call for compliance to the Copenhagen criteria that the Hungarian government accepted when it joined the EU, prepared by the government of Orbán when he was Prime Minister between 1998 and 2002.”
“But at the time he was a liberal. Now Orbán says that that freedom is no longer a central element in the organisation of the state, which should be reduced to a political majority that imposes its choices. This is what is happening in Hungary when it comes to justice, the press, education, asylum and NGOs.”
Vergiat attacked Orbán’s dangerous concept of “illiberal democracy”, which is a thinly veiled far right extremism:
“It is freedom and democracy that are being attacked and this is not surprising as you seek an alliance with Italy’s Salvini. You represent the worst of nationalism, of xenophobia and therefore of the extreme right.”
MEP Malin Björk (Vänsterpartiet, Sweden) used the opportunity to slam Juncker ahead of tomorrow's State of the EU address, where he is expected to announce new measures to seal EU's borders, following Orbán's lead:
“Juncker is expected to deploy 10,000 new border guards as a show of force against refugees in a misguided move that resembles a policy introduced by Orbán at the height of the refugee crisis. EU taxpayer's money is being used to militarise borders. This is the complete opposite of the EU as a peace project.”
“This cynical step is a surrender to demands of right-wing extremists who want to target innocent people fleeing for their lives. I have presented to this house much more credible proposals for better use of EU money, not least to defend the rights of women that are under attack in some member states like that of Prime Minister Orbán's,” Björk concluded.