Editorial by Dominique Guibert – “Disregarding rule of law: After Hungary, who will dare?”

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The policies followed in Hungary by Mr.Orban’s government are authoritarian and undemocratic. It is a source of concern for all those who are attached to fundamental and human rights. It is important to measure the dangers posed by the Hungarian government to the European construction.

For years, the rights of asylum seekers and migrants – who are abused, detained, “parked” in shameful camps, deprived of care and redress… – have been voluntarily and cynically violated, as the UN just has recalled once again. Continuing along the same denying rights, the government is trying to build a narrative saying that NGOs acting in Hungary are either foreign organisations or financed by foreign funds. The reality is that these associations are providing assistance to persons targeted by a regime increasingly characterised by nationalism as well as repression by police and judicial authorities.

Questioned several times by European institutions, Mr Orban seems not to have taken into account their criticism. He openly mocks sanctions that could be applied to his country considering that the current political climate, after the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU, is favourable to governments who seek to impose their will of doing only what they have decided. Obviously, the Hungarian government is playing with the pusillanimity of member states willing to accept anything from one of their members, with the expectation that reciprocity will become the norm. Little by little, we observe the emergence of an EU reduced to intergovernmental bargaining, far away from the idea of a common integration founded on democracy and human rights.

Of course, Orban definitely intends to maintain the part of the EU that is useful for Hungary: structural funds, free market for goods and products, and free movement of nationals in the European labour markets. But he categorically refuses to respect the EU’s political foundations. He knowingly contravenes community rules thus challenging European institutions to find ways of implementing them. In this respect, he never misses an opportunity to remind institutions that the activation of Article 7 TEU requires the unanimous approval of members… which will never happen.

AEDH argues that the laissez-faire in this area is seriously damaging the European Union as a whole. Behind the apparent show of unity proclaimed on 25 March in Roma for the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty establishing the European Community, Member States want nothing more than the possibility for each one of them to deal with this kind of situations as internal affairs the EU must not meddle with.

AEDH calls on the activation of the mechanism commonly referred to as “pre-article 7 procedure”, namely the framework for the protection of the rule of law in the European Union, in order to address systemic threats the latter is facing in any member state. In the absence of any positive response from the Hungarian government, it will then be necessary to implement Article 7 TEU to suspend Hungary’s voting rights and decide what sanctions should be applied to impose a political change. AEDH is advocating for these measures on the EU level.

Because the question is, who comes next after Hungary? Why should a government oriented towards nationalism and xenophobia deprive itself of smashing to pieces the European democratic edifice, since nothing is done, nothing is decided, nothing happens and everyone can make of the EU whatever they are pleased with? AEDH wants to make clear that what is at stake is emblematic of what the EU could become if nothing is done to stop abuses.

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