Hungary’s place in the sun of the EU – What does the international media think about Hungary? And You?
July 20, 2012
“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” ~John Maxwell
This time, I will react on the content of a more-or-less objective analysis about the situation In Hungary (and the perception of the international media of it)
“Greece’s economic peril has raised fears about the end of the eurozone. But Hungary’s autocratic turn under Prime Minister Viktor Orban presents a more fundamental challenge to the European project.”
(Comment: Politics are very sensitive issues – especially in Hungary. People take it as a question of faith/internal conviction rather than a subject of objective exchange of views. However, Hungarian politics have reached the European threshold and the international public became interested in what happens there. Thus, an interesting article (see above) about Hungary could help for both Hungarian and non-Hungarian readers to re-think their opinion.)
(on the photo: PM Viktor ORBÁN presenting the programme of activities of the Hungarian presidency of the Council on the 19 January 2011 Plenary Session © European Parliament)
My starting point is that it is agreed among the different players that the situation in Hungary is very controversial and complex. Let’s examine the case from the perspective of the European Union.
Is the EU a Democratic or an Economic Union?
The EU is both of them. However, from a legal point of view, the economic dimension is much more developed than the political/democratic one. The democracy in the EU is (was) a self-evidence based mainly on non-written habits and courtesy, and the soft-law of the European Council (which is out of the EU law but in a larger sense it belongs to the European Integration).
Should the EU became – soon or later – a political Union? The answer is yes, the EU should develop the political dimension of the legal Union but the ineffective sanctions towards Austria in 2001 and the recent developments in Hungary and Romania clearly shows the limits of the EU.
Federalisation of Europe and pressure on Hungary
I don’t regard politics as a matter of faith therefore I am not afraid of giving my professional opinion on it. Let’s make another remark about the federalisation of Europe and the decision of the Hungarian people. In my democracy conception people have to deserve having a well-functioning democracy.
If a foreign power removed a democratically elected Hungarian government by force/influence and put directly or indirectly a fully professional and pro-European government on the neck of Hungary, the people simply wouldn’t accept that legal but illegitimate government at all. Therefore, in my opinion, it is extremely important, that the common opinion of the people be democratic enough and any kind of decision have to issue from a clear democratic mandate coming from the Hungarian electorate as it was the case in 2010.
What about creating a Second House of the Parliament in Hungary as an alternative “brake” (checks and balances)
This idea is not from the devil. The “second house” of a Parliament is nothing else than another constitutional balance on the executive power like the president of the Republic, National Courts, Constitutional Court, Ombudsman, Court of Auditors etc. Several European countries have a second house like the United Kingdom or France. Due to their federal system, a second chamber system functions in Germany and Austria but there is an existing Senate in Romania for ex. ([VIDEO] Barroso: Romania has shaken EU trust)
In History, there was always a second chamber in Hungary. In the Hungarian Kingdom in the middle age, the “Felsőtábla” represented the Hungarian Lords against the members of smaller nobility. In Austria-Hungary (1867-1918) this institution functioned as “Főrendi ház” After the dismemberment of the historical Hungary, the new regime between the two World Wars re-installed the so-called “Felsőház” (1927-1944).Thus, this legal entity existed already in Hungary and it was always a place where the most conservative clerical and secular lords were collected (respectively in positive and negative sense)
Going back to our days, some say that after 1989 there were too many balances which blocked the proper function of the Hungarian state. This remark might be true from a certain point of view. If I understand well the arguments of the international community, they are saying that the problem of the current government is that they systematically tear down the balances – so there won’t be enough balances, due to the current government’s different democracy conception. Having said that, the possibility of the re-installation of the Hungarian Second Chamber is definitely on the table but it doesn’t mean in any way that it will alone protect the democratic function of the state. Thus, if a democracy had enough balances there would be no absolute need for a second house. In other words the existence of the second house is purely optional and doesn’t describe the level of democracy.
Who has the final say in that debate?
The performance of the current government must be measured by the upcoming free and fair elections. The actual government received a very large mandate and they weren’t afraid of using it – but this was the clear (good or bad) decision of the Hungarian people:
May I draw the attention to the conclusion of the above mentioned article since we all – having different opinion about Hungary – can agree upon one thing: the fate of the Hungarian government lies in the hands of the Hungarian electors. It is important not only from pragmatic but also from principal point of view: Hungarian electors have to understand the complexity of the situation before making their judgment.
As far as the EU isn’t a political union, external powers (commission, IMF, another member states) do not have the legal possibility to change the government in Hungary. There are thousand forms of influencing a country (in financial, political or cultural way) the external powers may use (and actually they do) but only a democratic election can make a final decision on the government. Do not forget: the current government received its extremely large power (a 2/3 majority) due to fair and free elections following the bad performance of the previous socialist governments.
It is up to the Hungarian people to make the final sentence on the current political direction. If the people vote in favour of the government they will keep the ruling party in power. If not, they will send it to the opposition as they did in 2010 with the socialists.
We will see. Nevertheless, I will closely monitor the situation from an independent point of view as I always did so far.
Last but one remark, some another element:
Finally may I copy here a citation as a last word without any comment:
“The government does not really want a deal unless there is little or no chance of surviving financially without it.” Mujtaba Rahman, Eurasia Group
I remain at your disposal.
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Related earlier updates:Zoltán Massay-Kosubek