Can European Parliament put Hungary in its place?

Oleksandr Khara
17:50, 14 September 2018
World
393 0
Opinion

Most MEPs supported the introduction of sanctions against Hungary for gross violations of the principles of the European Union, paving the way to temporarily deprive Hungary of its voting rights in the EU Council. This is perhaps the most painful decision that could be taken, but this scenario is unlikely to be implemented.

The thing is that supporting the decision to apply sanctions against Budapest does not mean immediately imposing penalties. The decision is yet to be endorsed by the leaders of the 28 member states. But, there is a possibility that Poland is likely to stand up for its regional neighbor.

However, this definitely sends a certain signal. First, the decision by MEPs set a precedent. Secondly, there is an EU accession procedure, but there is no such procedure for exclusion. Accordingly, it is possible to take a wide range of actions with respect to Budapest, and it is up for the MEPs to decide, how tough these moves will be.

Unfortunately, for our part, we do not make use of the present crisis. In any case, if not in the EU, then in NATO, opportunities remain for Hungary to hinder our rapprochement. At the same time, there are no problems with the Poles and Romanians, whom before the war some perceived as a threat to Ukraine. We realize that we are in the same boat, we need to cooperate, while smaller-scale issues should be solved at a technical level, through diplomatic efforts instead of demarches. But the case with Hungary is totally different. They pursue their narrow-focused national interests.

The European Union is not only about economy, it's also about certain values and standards of democracy

Perhaps it makes sense to put Hungary in its place - to remind Budapest that the EU is not only about economy, it's also about certain values and standards of democracy. If they are not respected, there must be some reaction. For example, in the European Union there is a policy of equalization (to a greater extent, it refers to the infrastructure and the economy), and, from the point of view of democratic governance, there is also a certain range within which members are allowed to operate. If a certain country goes beyond that range, this must entail certain actions. However, it's too early to say how effective they will be and whether they're able to practically, rather than symbolically, affect the spheres Hungary deems important.

Perhaps, in the end, voters in Hungary will be able to read the signal sent from Brussels, and in the next elections they'll vote differently. For example, they could show that they disagree with Orban. After all, Hungary is a democratic country, albeit with certain elements that Brussels doesn't like. Well, not only Brussels…  Although, this is unlikely to happen because Orban somehow won the vote last time in the first place. He did offer his own agenda. As a populist, he exploited momentary public moods, often not based on reality.

Hungary is a democratic country, albeit with certain elements that Brussels doesn't like

If we look at the countries that actually take in most refugees – like Germany or Sweden – it would seem that the opposition to EU policies should be most ardent there. However, what did we see at the latest elections in Germany? Indeed, Chancellor Merkel paid her price for the decision to raise quotas. But, in any case, she retained her post, led her party to parliament, and created a coalition. This is an indication that German society is healthier in this sense, and it reacted correctly, despite the fact that the problem of refugees is more urgent for Germans than it is for Hungary. At the same time, there is more populism in Hungary, where politicians exploit people's fears. This is about those local populists making use of people's subjective perception to gain a foothold in power. Orban is just a classic example.

Oleksandr Khara is an expert at the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation

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