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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Other conflicts between the EU and Hungary

The excessive deficit procedure was not the only point of conflict – in fact not even the main one – between the EU and Hungary. And although some people in Hungary complain that the EU has lost leverage on Hungary by letting it out of the procedure, I would not support measures designed for economic purposes to be used on political disagreements. First of all, this would further fuel anti-EU propaganda, but probably also anti-EU sentiment in Hungary and could also lead to a legal defeat of the EU which would harm its prestige even more. I also doubt whether the EU is the right institution to be judge and even less one fighting party in political conflicts in Hungary. There are, however other pending questions – the fourth amendment of the fundamental law (ex constitution) and also the general questions around the measures limiting democracy and political freedoms, the Tavares-report (or in Hungarian ) and the article 7 procedure it proposes (working documents can also be found here ). The Commission on its part indicated that infringement procedure may be launched because of the fourth amendment (which in Hungary has a totally different connotation than the fourth amendment of the U.S. constitution). Of course to launch of the article 7 procedure is not so simple. It can be initiated by one third of the Member States, the Parliament or the Commission. The Council will most probably not initiate it, the Commission is reluctant to apply the „nuclear option”, in particular as this – and the Romanian – case supports strongly the quest for a less drastic but more flexible tool for the Commission to sanction a breach of European values (mentioned in Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union). (The Commission also wants a framework be created to analyse the conditions for applying Article 7 .) Rui Tavares proposes this step to be taken by the Parliament. There are in fact three phases: Phase 1: The Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Phase 2: The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2, and Phase 3: The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. Phase 2 can only be proposed by one third of the member states of by the Commission, i.e. the Parliament has no right of initiative in this phase. Phase 3 requires no specific initiative, it can be (but is not automatically) a consequence of phase 2. See: here So a majority in the Parliament and a four fifth majority in the Council is necessary even for the first phase (and unanimity in the European Council to start the second phase). This is not possible without consent of at least part of the members of the EPP to which FIDESZ belongs. Several analyses has appeared in the Hungarian press, in particular following the leak of a purported discussion on the Dubrovnik meeting of EPP leaders (where FIDESZ was not present) about extraditing the FIDESZ from the EPP. This was vehemently denied afterwards. In the following EP debate on Hungary – while in previous debates Joseph Daul, the leader of the EPP faction forcefully defended the Hungarian government – the EPP was represented only by Frank Engel, who resorted to general statements and was very lukewarm. (His contribution is only published in French ) It is, however, very doubtful whether ever the necessary majority will be achieved. The amendments to the Tavares report are arriving, so let’s wait what will be the final text. I retort from details of diplomatic and less diplomatic exchanges between Orbán and other conservative European leaders, as it is totally unforeseeable when they will decide to take steps and whether this will not be attributed to personal sensitivity rather than to political differences by FIDESZ propaganda.

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