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Hungary: ex-EU commissioner and Viktor Orbán confidante urges compromise in budget dispute

2020-11-27T23:31:27.237Z

Hungary blocks the EU budget in the dispute over the rule of law mechanism. Here the former EU Commissioner and Orbán confidante explains why Budapest is doing this - and whether a compromise is possible.



Icon: enlarge

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungary's Viktor Orbán are blocking the EU budget because they reject a mechanism to monitor the rule of law.

Photo: Czarek Sokolowski / AP

SPIEGEL:

Budapest is blocking the EU budget for the next seven years and a billion-dollar Corona fund because Viktor Orbán's government rejects the new rule of law mechanism.

It stipulates that countries could have money canceled if they violate EU principles such as the separation of powers.

Why doesn't Hungary want that?

Navracsics:

The Hungarian government refuses to link EU payments to member countries with the rule of law.

In their view, certain aspects of the definition of "rule of law" in the new mechanism are highly controversial.

She would like it to be more precisely defined what exactly is meant….

To person

Icon: enlarge Photo: © Laszlo Balogh / Reuters / REUTERS

Tibor Navracsics, 54, is considered a confidante of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - and at the same time a moderate representative of the ruling Fidesz party.

The lawyer and political scientist was initially Justice Minister in Budapest until he became EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport in 2014.

His term of office in Brussels ended in 2019. He currently works as a university professor and also holds the post of government commissioner for economic development in Northern Hungary and for the European capital of culture Veszprém.

SPIEGEL:

Hardly any highly controversial.

Only two out of 27 countries criticize this, Poland and Hungary.

And why is your country so sensitive?

The government always claims that there is absolutely no problem with the rule of law in Hungary.

Navracsics:

It is controversial, for example, whether the judiciary - as is the case in some EU countries - may be administratively subordinate to the Ministry of Justice.

Elsewhere, judges are subordinate to a self-governing body, such as in Hungary.

I was Minister of Justice from 2010 to 2014, and I have seen several times that some of our regulations have been questioned by the EU Commission - but they have worked without objections elsewhere in the EU for years.

It is measured by two standards.

"It is measured by two standards."

SPIEGEL:

Budapest fears that it will be treated unequally.

Navracsics:

Exactly, some of the western EU countries still look down on us with suspicion, probably considering us to be unstable, young democracies.

SPIEGEL:

The ruling party Fidesz claims that the rule of law could be used to impose more rights on homosexuals or a more liberal migration policy on Hungary.

Navracsics:

It seems to be a concern of the Hungarian government that the mechanism is being misused for other purposes.

But there is no such direct connection between the rule of law mechanism and immigration policy, for example.

The whole conflict is not about a material core or money, but about national sovereignty.

The Hungarian government - and the Polish too - do not want any political integration into the EU.

You want to go back to the original, more economical idea of ​​the EU.

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SPIEGEL:

Viktor Orbán has even often compared the EU with the Soviet Union ...

Navracisis:

The language of political debates in our home country is often very harsh.

SPIEGEL:

The rule of law mechanism is presented as a German idea, as a German dictate.

Or even as a conspiracy of the Hungarian billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.

Navracsis:

The Germans did indeed put the rule of law high on their list of priorities during their EU presidency.

But there is also a lot of support for it elsewhere, for example in the European Parliament.

In the rhetoric of the Hungarian government, George Soros is not just a tycoon, he is following his agenda in dark ways.

I don't want to comment on that any further.

"Hungary has a bad image"

SPIEGEL:

Hungary has benefited enormously from the billions from the EU - and now does not want to respect European rule of law criteria.

Budapest is taking countries like Spain and Italy hostage politically, as is seen by parts of the German public.

They need the Corona aid particularly urgently.

Aren't you afraid that your country will suffer enormous damage to your country's image and that Hungary's political weight will continue to decline?

Navracsics:

I'm afraid this problem is older.

Hungary has a particularly bad image - especially in the German media.

That is a sad development.

The country does not appear there as a living democracy, but exclusively as a system that tends towards authoritarianism.

Of course, the most recent steps don't help at all.

SPIEGEL:

How can the situation be saved?

Which compromise could Hungary agree to?

Navracsics:

It's very difficult to say.

Normally, the EU makes material concessions to countries that cross each other on individual issues.

You give money.

In this case it doesn't work.

I hope the dialogue will continue.

Basically, nobody rejects a rule of law mechanism in the EU.

Budapest would probably support the compromise that was already planned for July.

Maybe we can go back to that.

"That would certainly be the saddest scenario in the last 20 years of EU integration."

SPIEGEL:

But it was much softer.

High hurdles would have had to be overcome in EU bodies before a country could have been punished for violating the rule of law.

After the decisions made last week, that hardly seems realistic.

Navracsics:

You have to ask your government that.

Berlin holds the Council Presidency.

SPIEGEL:

There is the idea of ​​not setting up the Corona Fund as an EU resolution with Hungary and Poland, but as a multinational agreement - and then without Warsaw and Budapest.

How realistic is that?

Navracsics: There is a

possibility.

Hungary has already started to take out loans in the international market in order to be prepared.

SPIEGEL:

Wouldn't that be the first step towards a de facto exit from the EU?

Because a central policy area of ​​the EU, the budget, would be decided without Hungary's vote?

Navracsics:

That would certainly be the saddest scenario in the last 20 years of EU integration.

Hungarians do not want to leave the EU under any circumstances; the vast majority are in favor of membership.

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Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2020-11-27

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