European Union and Hungary: towards a new “Haider” case ?

(Original IT – translation still to be revised)

Hungary puts at risk the Union’s values?

”Such a change among the democratic frameworks that we did today was only done by revolutions before. […] Hungarians today have proved that there is a reason for democracy. […] Hungarians today overthrew a system of oligarchs who used to abuse their power.” The new government will be modest and humble. “ (1)

Two years later, these April 2010 Viktor Orban statements celebrating the Fidesz Party two thirds majority in Parliament following the Hungarian elections, sound now very different as it is the case for the economic forecasts following the 2010 Hungarian elections according to which such an electoral result would had made possible for the Hungarian Forint to recover from the crisis from which it had been barely saved in 2008 by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

Now, not only the relations between the EU and the IMF seem to have reached their lowest point (at least judging from the recent interruption of the negotiations with the Hungarian monetary authorities) but even bolder critics are emerging at European level as far as the compatibility of various initiatives of the Orban Government with fundamental rights and respect for democratic principles are concerned.

The situation is so worrying to push Guy Verohfstadt, President of the Liberal Group in the European Parliament to declare that Hungary seems not to fully respect anymore the “values” it subscribed when it joined the European Union, (“values” that the Lisbon Treaty has made even more explicit (2). Hence, according to Verohfstadt the European institutions should trigger the “alert” procedure foreseen by art. 7 par. 1 of the EU Treaty (3).

It is worth noting that such an “alert” procedure may be launched by the European Parliament itself and that it is designed to verify if “.. there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the founding values of the European Union and, if such a risk exists the Council would be entitled to formally recommend the State who has lost its bearings to come back on the rights track.

Needless to say that such an “alert procedure” is very different from the “nuclear option” laid down in the second paragraph of the article 7 where the Council could even suspend a Member State voting rights if “a serious and persistent breach” of European Values has been ascertained.

Yet the mere fact of evoking the “alert” procedure has already led the European Parliament’s political groups, to position themselves as in previous cases by mirroring the political position present at national level (situation which will make difficult to reach the third majority needed in the European Parliament to vote the request the Council to address formal recommendation to Hungary).(4)

The European Parliament debate on this issue will take place during the January Plenary session in Strasbourg then the competent parliamentary committee could start its work as far as the European Commission has shown that there is ground to proceed and the Conference of Presidents of political groups consider that a formal report should be prepared following the proposal of the ALDE President Verohfstadt.

All that having being said on procedural aspects, it is worth recalling which have been the main concerns raised by the recent Hungarian initiatives.
Continue reading