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Enforced and chosen freedom

standpoint 2017-05-17 | Fb Sharing

Article 7 and beyond

Today the European Parliament (EP) is voting on two motions which claim that Hungary does not respect the values of the EU and make it quite clear that there is no room for autocratic regimes in the EU.

1. Condemnation from right and left – report on Hungary

One of the motions has been tabled by the left wing and liberal EP block (S&D, ALDE, GUE/NGL and Verts/ALE), instructing the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) to draw up a report on Hungary based on which the EP could propose initiating the procedure under Article 7 of the TEU in light of the measures of the Hungarian government taken in the recent past and the past few years more broadly. 

To protect the fundamental values (freedom, equality, democracy, rule of law, human rights) of the EU, Article 7 provides the possibility of taking measures against member states that violate those. The unprecedented use of Article 7 could lead to the loss of voting rights in the European Council. Such an outcome is highly unlikely though since it requires the cooperation of several EU institutions. What is more, to trigger the procedure the Council of Foreign Ministers has to vote on it with a four-fifths majority, which is politically not probable. 

The other motion has been submitted by the European People’s Party (EPP), of which Fidesz-KDNP is itself a member. Though not explicitly worded, this motion also raises the possibility of triggering the Article 7 procedure. It calls on LIBE to take the necessary measures if the Hungarian government does not give an acceptable answer within the deadline set by the Commission and if the risk of a breach of the EU values has been determined.  

2. The responsibility for restoring constitutional democracy 

Though with differing urgency, the motions call attention to the same problems. Both point out, for example, that the values enshrined in Article 2 of the TEU must be respected, they both demand the suspension of lex CEU and the bill on NGOs and deplore the “Stop Brussels!” national consultation. These similarities show that the EU institutions have decided to make it clear that there is no room for autocratic regimes in the EU

The suspension of Hungary’s voting right is unlikely but the fact that the idea of triggering Article 7 has arisen is itself a clear message from the EU to the Hungarian political community: the Orbán regime and membership in the EU are not compatible on the long run. 

At the same time we have to bear in mind that the responsibility for restoring constitutional democracy lies with the Hungarian people and we cannot pass the buck either on the EU or on anybody else. 

17 May 2017


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