Last week, the European Parliament (EP) voted to approve a report that proposed demoting Hungary from the status of democracy to “a hybrid regime of elected autocracy” due to alleged actions by the Orban government to “undermine European values”.
“The European Parliament deeply regrets that the lack of decisive action on the part of the EU has contributed to undermining democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary, turning the country into a hybrid electoral autocracy,” reads a communiqué published on the Parliament’s website.
The EP defines an “electoral autocracy” as a constitutional system in which elections are held regularly, but without due “respect for democratic norms and standards.”
“The conclusions presented in this report are clear and unequivocal: Hungary is not a democracy. It was more than ever necessary for Parliament to take this position, given the alarming pace of the decline of the rule of law in Hungary,” French MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, EP rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, said in a statement.
The report on Hungary also highlights problems with the rule of law, corruption, freedom of the media, independence of the judiciary, minority, migrant and LGBT rights.
Now, the European Union has also recommended suspending 7.5 billion euros in funds to Hungary over corruption allegations. EU members must approve this suspension by a majority for it to be applied.
The timing of these measures by the European Parliament is raising questions as to whether Hungary is being made to pay a price for its opposition to EU sanctions on Russia. In Budapest at least, the connection is deemed to be certain. Brussels wants to discipline Hungary.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the EP report was an attack on the right of Hungary to decide its own policies, adding that the EU should deal with more pressing problems.
“Well-paid MEPs would do better if they dealt with real European issues, like how to help the people and the European economy after energy prices tripled or quadrupled due to sanctions. It would be better to look for a way out for Europe from recession, high inflation and high energy prices, ” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said at a press conference on 15 September.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called the EP report a “boring anecdote”. He was speaking at a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.
“As for the decision of the European Parliament, I think it’s a joke, but we don’t laugh, because it’s a rather boring joke. They are doing this for the second or third time – they condemn Hungary in the European Parliament. Once we thought that it had some meaning, but now we perceive it as a joke,” Orban said.
It is known that Budapest and Brussels do not see eye to eye on many key EU issues, including migration and more recently, the sanctions on Russia.
Hungary has sharply criticized Western sanctions against Moscow in the context of the war in Ukraine.
On September 16, at a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Viktor Orban said that the sanctions were the actions of “dwarfs against a giant” and they will “absorb everything that Europe has achieved over the past ten years.”
He stressed that the sanctions were out of touch with reality.
“I can even say that it is easy to make decisions about sanctions in Paris, Madrid, Brussels, maybe even in Berlin. But we are closer to the country against which sanctions are imposed, that is, to Russia. Whoever is closer always suffers more from sanctions. Therefore, it is not surprising that the position of Hungary on sanctions is radically different from the position of Brussels. The difference between our positions is about 2,000 km,” Orban explained.