Success of Hungarian Presidency in Jeopardy!

Declaration by the Hungarian Europe Society*

On the eve of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Hungarian Europe Society wishes to express its deep concern over the policy pursued by the Hungarian government. We believe that the government’s steps imperil the country’s success in this highly important position. The 6-month period offers unprecedented opportunities for a deeper incorporation of Hungarian EU membership and a deeper appreciation of European values. Moreover, the Council Presidency is an excellent opportunity to further the Europeanisation of Hungarian society. Instead, as a result of government behaviour that runs counter to basic democratic norms, Hungary might find itself on the periphery of European political and intellectual life.  

The government has launched a string of attacks against the institution of constitutional democracy and the rule of law - first and foremost, against the Constitutional Court, market economy, against ’foreign’ multinationals and media pluralism — which is not exclusively the problem of the opposition parties. Likewise, Hungary as an EU Member State cannot treat the retroactive taxation of legal incomes and the practical dismantling of the Fiscal Council as internal affairs. The government’s intention to starve the private pension fund system and to force the transfer of private pension fund savings into state pension schemes do not belong only to the domestic political field either. These actions are all taking place in the shadow of an education policy that deviates from European tendencies, and a cultural policy that is flirting with the extreme-right.

In addition, the government has previously engaged in unreasonable and distasteful conflicts with the European institutions regarding the independence of the Hungarian National Bank. Using its populist rhetoric, the ruling power has also fuelled discord with the International Monetary Fund. It is no surprise that a growing number of people are watching with increasing distrust the more and more unpredictable voluntaristic economic policy and the destruction of checks and balances. Besides, on 25 November 2010, despite the fact that close cooperation with Hungary during the next six months is an absolute necessity, the Commission publicly expressed its apprehension.

Clearly, the government’s management of the EU’s Council Presidency will be impossible to separate from the systemic transformation of the domestic scene. No communication manoeuvre or image-building exercise is capable to divert the focus of European and international media from the government’s actions aimed at limiting the rule of law during the Presidency semester. As long as the ’revolutionary’ governance continues and the government in power uses its two-third majority to force a backward looking constitution on the country, the Hungarian Presidency may prove to be a total failure and Hungary could become the EU’s enfant terrible. This should not happen.

We call upon the leading politicians of the common European institutions and the Member States to keep a close eye on the negative trends taking place in Hungary and to voice their opinion openly. We consider it of utmost urgency that the government expresses its respect for the rule of law and European values by revising the political course it has thus pursued. Without this step, the Hungarian Presidency cannot be a success.  

As the former Fidesz slogan stressed: “We wish to live in a country in which the law doesn’t only defend the rights of Coca-Cola”. At present, the members of the Hungarian Europe Society wish to see a Hungary in which law defends the rights of Hungarian-European citizens and Coke alike.

*The declaration does not necessarily reflect the opinion of all HES members. 51 members voted in favour of the declaration, 13 persons abstained from voting.