Hostages of the Visegrad group? Orban foams with anger: The rule of law dispute reveals the deep EU rifts
The European Union has troubled days ahead of it. With its report on the rule of law in the member states, the Commission has initiated a process that has revealed deep rifts between the EU states.
Especially the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a good enemy for many European parliamentarians. He cares little – he seeks an argument.
The next few days in Brussels are likely to be just what the German Social Democrat Katarina Barley likes. The former German Justice Minister and today’s Vice-President of the European Parliament regards compliance with the rule of law in the EU states as her “body and stomach issue”.
Now Barley has put on the combat suit and above all has the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in his sights. The EU must finally “send a clear signal that Orban also shows: This is the end.”
Next EU summit burdened by Zoff with Orban
Barley’s combative words accompany a process that is gaining momentum this week and next in Brussels and is already making waves. All three pillars of the Union, the EU Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, are heading towards a new procedure that will punish violations of the rule of law more strongly in the future.
The Commission started by taking stock of the rule of law in the individual EU countries. The dispute over what conclusions should be drawn from this is likely to weigh on the next EU summit, which begins on Thursday, even though the topic is not on the agenda.
More on the subject: EU states outvote Hungary and Poland in dispute over the rule of law
Victor Orban’s “sick” democracy in the pillory
But Orban took up the gauntlet in an unprecedented manner and demanded the resignation of the EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova, before the Commission observations were presented. In an interview with the news magazine “Der Spiegel”, this gave a foretaste of the results of the investigation for Hungary and accused the Prime Minister of installing a “sick” democracy in his country. The Commission overview follows up on serious concerns about the independence of the media and the judiciary in Hungary and the risk of corruption.
Orban, who, like the Polish government, is already exposed to infringement proceedings by the Commission due to deficits in the rule of law, was already foaming. Jourova’s statements were “not only an attack on the democratically elected Hungarian government”, but also “offensive to Hungary and the Hungarian people”, he wrote in a letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
EU budget and Corona aid – hostages of the Visegrad group?
This is unlikely to be the climax of the dispute. Next week there will be sharp debates in the European Parliament on the rule of law. In addition, an upcoming decision by the European Court of Justice could also irritate Orban. The judges also want to decide in the next week whether the revised Hungarian higher education law is in line with the values of the Union. It was the basis for closing the Central European University in Hungary, financed by businessman George Soros.
The possible escalations are causing concern in Brussels that Orban could now take hostage the next EU budget and his and the final adoption of the corona aid in a joint action with his Central Eastern European allies of the Visegrad Group (Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic) To block.
The Hungarian Minister of Justice Judit Varga has already provided subtle interpretations that the marathon summit of the EU heads of state and government in July did not combine corona aid according to the Budapest reading with the rule of law. In any case, the German-language “Budapester Zeitung” informed her that the rule of law was a “nebulous” term: “It is not a clear, tangible norm that can be applied in everyday life because its violation, which could be sanctioned, cannot be clearly defined can. “
Also read: “Drama and threatening gestures”: The moment of truth strikes for Brexit-Boris
At the same time, the minister gave a glimpse of what she thinks of the European Parliament: “The political legitimacy of the European Parliament will never be the same as that of the governments of the member states.” In view of the poisoned atmosphere, Barley and her fellow MEPs are preparing for bitter arguments. “Orban openly makes fun of the rest of the European Union,” says the social democrat. “The EU just can’t put up with that any more.” Barley categorically explains: “The interpretation of the rule of law cannot be negotiated.”
A suggestion on the quality that the German Council Presidency put in motion met with a negative response in the European Parliament and in some media. Critics consider it to be too toothless because it makes the withholding of EU money for constitutional sinners dependent on a qualified majority in the European Council, i.e. on a positive vote from at least 15 states, which represent 65 percent of the total population of the Union. This hurdle is considered to be very high.
Shame about the rule of law TÜV
“Germany gives way to Poland and Hungary”, judged the daily newspaper “Die Welt”; the Green MEP Sergey Lagodinsky says: “We must do everything to ensure that what was presented by the German Council Presidency on the rule of law does not become a legal basis.”
The German members of the parliamentary group of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) in the EU Parliament also say that the rule of law mechanism agreed at the summit in July must “live up to its name”. The head of the CDU / CSU MPs, Daniel Caspary, finds it shameful that procedures such as a constitutional TÜV are even necessary in the EU: “Actually, it is in itself unsettling that such a report needs to get this attention at all. In Europe, we have to come back to the point where the rule of law is not a topic of public debate, but an unquestioned common basis for peace and freedom, which we rightly demand everywhere else in the world. “
Germany is also getting its fat away
The EPP is struggling with the special delicacy that Orban is a member of this party family, even if it is currently on hold. But the Hungarian is by no means the only sinner in the EU. The game has long been popular between conservatives and socialists in the EU Parliament: “If you hold my Orban, I will beat your Babis.” Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who was supported by the Czech Social Democrats and a very rich businessman, was suspected of corruption.
The Commission’s inventory of the rule of law, which it intends to present annually in the future, tries not to give rise to suspicions that it is a West versus East tribunal. That is why every member state gets its fat away when it comes to assessing the judiciary, the fight against corruption, freedom of the media and the separation of powers, including the Federal Republic. The independence of the German public prosecutor’s offices leaves much to be desired, according to Brussels’ taste.