The European Parliament’s resolution concerning Hungarian democracy

What Tibor Navracsics feared has happened. The full session of the European Parliament approved a resolution expressing great reservations about Hungarian developments. The resolution, submitted by the Socialist, Liberal and Green groups and the European Left/Nordic Green Left Party, passed with 315 votes in support, 263 against, and 49 abstentions. These numbers indicate that several members of the European People Party’s caucus to which Fidesz belongs voted for the resolution of the socialists, liberals, and greens or simply abstained. According to reports they were mostly German and French members of the European People’s Party.

The resolution calls on the Hungarian government to comply with the recommendations, objections, and demands of the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and the Venice Commission and amend the laws recently adopted accordingly.


Full session, European Parliament, Strasbourg, Reuters, Photo: Vincent Kessler

The resolution specifically asks the Commission to conduct a thorough study to ensure the independence of the judiciary, in particular “ensuring that the National Judicial Authority, the Prosecutor’s Office and the courts in general are governed free from political influence, and that the mandate of independently appointed judges cannot be arbitrarily shortened.” It also mentions the independence of the Hungarian National Bank and insists that “the right of the Constitutional Court to review any legislation is fully restored, including the right to review budgetary and tax laws.” The freedom of pluralism of the media must be guaranteed; the document specifically mentions the Media Council whose membership must include all parties. The document also addresses the new electoral law. There should be an investigation of the details of the law to ascertain that it meets European democratic standards. Finally, the resolution refers to the registration of churches and their approval by a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian Parliament. In addition, the Venice Commission should take another serious look at the new Hungarian constitution.

The Hungarian media, including MTI, reported that “the resolution also instructed the conference of presidents to consider implementation of further measures, including invoking Article 7 of the treaty that could strip Hungary of its right to draw on EU funding.”

Let me pause here because the two Hungarian socialist EP members who signed the document, Kinga Göncz and Csaba Tabajdi, have a different interpretation of the invocation of Article 7 in the document.

Let me quote two important articles relevant to our discussion. First, Article 2, which justifies action against the Hungarian government.

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail. 

Second, here is Article 7:

1. On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, 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. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure.

The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.

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, after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.

3. Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, 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. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons. EN 30.3.2010 Official Journal of the European Union C 83/19

The obligations of the Member State in question under this Treaty shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.

4. The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide subsequently to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed.

5. The voting arrangements applying to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council for the purposes of this Article are laid down in Article 354 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The resolution adopted refers only to Article 7(1). Therefore, before any suspension of voting rights or financial assistance, the Council will confer with the member state in question and will monitor to ascertain that the given government complies with the demands of the Council.

Passage of the resolution has no legal consequences, but it certainly has political ones, especially since the deadline for the Hungarian government’s answers to the recommendations of the European Council is tomorrow. According to Viktor Orbán the answers are ready to be sent. Therefore, it seems to me, Fidesz does have a point when it complains about the timing of the adoption of the resolution. After all, the Council and the Hungarian government are still “negotiating.”

My hunch is that even without the EP resolution the Hungarian answers most likely will not satisfy the European Council. Undersecretary Zoltán Kovács, who has lately been called “the international spokesman” of the Hungarian government, didn’t sound exactly conciliatory today when he acknowledged the political defeat suffered by the Hungarian government. He talked about “ideological and political motivations” that have no place in the European Council. As for the European Parliament, it is not interested “in the facts.” The Hungarian government “is ready for intelligent dialogue,” the implication being that the EP resolution doesn’t belong to what Kovács considers intelligent dialogue.

As for the specific issues between the Council and the Hungarian government, “there are some professional considerations that are acceptable while there are some which in the Hungarian government’s opinion have already been answered and there are some that are totally unacceptable.” As to the last category, he brought up the salaries of the employees of the Hungarian National Bank.

We will see what the Council’s reaction is, but I fear it will be negative.


  1. As much as I find it very sad that things have come to this in Hungary, kudos to the EP for standing up for the values of democracy within the EU.

  2. Let’s start with Zoltan Kovacs, (Phd)…By the way, I’ve written Debrecen University a couple of times regarding Mr. Kovacs’
    Phd thesis–no response.
    Let’s move on. Would Mr. Kovacs consider these to be “democratic”
    –staffing on oversight committee with members of only the ruling party;
    –changing the makeup and area of concern of a constitutional court in response to a negarive ruling against the government;
    –giving defendants the right to pick their own judges and areas of jurisdiction;
    –passing the great majority of legislation through private members’ bills to avoid discussion;
    –depriving the only talk radio station of their frequency by highly questionable, and clearly political means;
    and on and on.
    Let me suggest Fidesz members’ conception of democracy and it’s quite simple: DEMOCRACY IS WHAT WE SAY IT IS.

  3. An: “As much as I find it very sad that things have come to this in Hungary, kudos to the EP for standing up for the values of democracy within the EU.”
    I’m with you. Of course, the most important point here is that the European People’s Party didn’t stand up for the Orbán government as one man. If they did, the vote wouldn’t have gone the way it did.
    If you people have a few minutes and know Hungarian, please watch Bence Rétvári defending the government’s position at Egyenes Beszéd (>videok)

  4. Petofi: “Let’s start with Zoltan Kovacs, (Phd)….”
    I really do recommend to listening to Bence Rétvári on Egyenes Beszéd. It is really amazing. I really don’t know where these people live. He went on and on defending every awful law they voted on. They have Christian values and therefore all their critics must be wrong.

  5. Eva: “…Christian values…”
    Not only are critics wrong but they have betrayed their country
    by ‘attacking’ it. Who can argue with all that? But there is something worse and it seems to have escaped most bloggers: the
    roll of the Catholic Church. Stealthily, the Hungarian Catholic Church backs all of Fidesz’s moves whether it’s the laws on street-people or restricting the number of religious organizations. It’s not only that people are confused by Fidesz appropriating patriotism and the flag as their own; it’s also the churches blind support of Fidesz. If you’re a good Christian, who can escape this double whammy?

  6. re Bence Retvari:
    He’s truly frightening: it’s like watching an avid Hitler Youth
    from the 1930’s or even Goebbels. There’s simply no breaching
    the wall of their belief. But you know, MONEY must be in the background of much of this. That 32-yr old nonentity who was setup to defend Matolcsy and the 47,000 forint….well, that snotty
    kid makes 1,700,000 PER MONTH! He’s not even a cabinet member?
    How on earth can they justify that pay? What is he doing for it?

  7. In the previous blog entry g.stillt left the following comment:
    “ reacts
    I just want to translate the first sentence from the “true, balanced reporting Echo Tv provide to the Hungarian masses:
    “As it was expected today the European Parliament’s leftist green party communist, socialist and liberal majority convicted Hungary.” BAHAHA They do not even know how to gracefully dent the news, they have to come and lie straight.
    1. THey did not convict Hungary, but came up with a resolution for compliance.
    2. Ot was not about Hungary, as that was said many-many times. It was about the Orban government’s ad-hoc iPad ideas.
    3. In the European Parliament all of those who this intelligence-lacking “journalist” calls leftists, for a fact are in minority. THe conservative caucus (Fidesz is member of) are in majority.
    You know how the Fidesz Party is in majority in the HUngarian Parliament? Imagine if the MSZP would try pass something and it would pass because even Fidesz members would feel that it is the right thing to do.
    Dear Echo TV, suck it up Buttercup!

  8. “As much as I find it very sad that things have come to this in Hungary, kudos to the EP for standing up for the values of democracy within the EU.”
    I have to agree.
    Eva, I have seen the Retvari interview.
    He claims the country has been attacked. When Olga Kalman kept reminding him that it is the government that is being warned, he argued that the government had been chosen by Hungarians, therefore if they get told off, it is an attack on Hungarians.
    I mean, really… one has to wonder whether this guy knows enough about democracy to be an MP. People who voted for Fidesz can’t have allowed them to pass laws that are against EU laws, can they?
    Then he went on to argue that they had consulted the people about the constitution, therefore if you attack the constitution, you are attacking he country.
    This guy is either stupid or thinks he can get away with anything.
    Or else they are really really cunning and have decided they want Hungary to leave the EU and this is their way of turning Hungarians against it.

  9. I believe that it’s very important to keep focused here. Although the Hungarian government would like to frame this all as the leftist EU being “out to get the Hungarian government and thus out to get Hungary” and wishing to rule in place of the elected Hungarian government, the issue here is plain: the Hungarian government has written and adopted a constitution and laws which are not in compliance with its treaty obligations to the EU.
    If the government of Hungary wishes to remain in the EU and benefit from its membership, then it cannot break those treaty obligations and it is obliged to make its laws in conformity with those obligationa; if, instead, it wishes to leave the EU, then it should be explicit to the Hungarian people and to the EU about this.
    As I have suggested here before, this is not a radical notion, indeed, fulfilling obligations — in a treaty, or a contract, or in a debt — is a conservative virtue. This government is not behaving in a conservative way.

  10. Well that is the end of the matter.
    This is just too much loss of face for the Mighty Viktator who is Fidesz.
    I expect the announcement In the Hungarian press before the end of February that Hungary will leave the E.U, close its borders and sever all diplomatic ties all E.U. countries and become what it has always wanted to be Alone in this world.

  11. One must, as always, ‘churches la femme’…and la femme is always where the money is. Has anyone noticed that Russia’s two biggest banks are readying to enter the Hungarian market? Has Lazar the Janos anything to do with this? Or Victor the Orban? Please not, en passant, that the government has respectfully declined to allow the CEO of MOL to a be questioned by the Croatian authorities regarding the matter
    of Szanader’s tidy little 10 million euros….always, always,

  12. CORRECTIONS for my last post:
    One must, as always, ‘churches la femme”…and la femme is always where the money is. Has anyone noticed that Russia’s two biggest banks are readying to enter the Hungarian market? Has Lazar the Janos anything to do with this with his attack on Erste? Or Victor the Orban? Please note, en passant, that the Fidesz government has respectfully declined to allow the Croatian authorities to question the CEO of Mol regarding the Szanader’s tidy little 10 million euros. Apparently, at 21% ownership, MOL is a ‘vital industry’ and is protected by Hungarian Law.

  13. “churches la femme”
    I couldn’t have written that twice! What gives??
    Are my blogs being sabotaged….?

  14. Maybe your “churches” was a subconscious reference to Petőfi’s reference to the role of the KDNP and the Catholic establishment in all this.
    But given FIDESZ’ incompetence over things that are in the public arena, I really don’t think they have the wit to prepare a full-blown conspiracy, with or without the help of the Russians, Iranians or whoever else. It’s just the sound of the wagons forming into a circle to protect the rich and influential.

  15. Dear Eva,
    ” Of course, the most important point here is that the European People’s Party didn’t stand up for the Orbán government as one man. If they did, the vote wouldn’t have gone the way it did.”
    I have a bit of a problem with this sentence. I believe you know exactly what.
    Peter Litvanyi

  16. Can any of Prof Balogh’s readers point me, please, to a listing of how individual members voted on the resolution? (My interest is particularly in the stances adopted by those from Britain.) Best thanks in advance to this well-informed group!

  17. GDF: “Is the vote in the EP secret?” I don’t think so. Maybe they just don’t know the complete picture.

  18. What bothers me is that Kinga Göncz is one of the chief instigators of this EP resolution. She was the most ineffectual foreign minister the country ever had. She has absolutely no credibility in Hungary.

  19. Peter Litvanyi: “I have a bit of a problem with this sentence. I believe you know exactly what.”
    This is an expression that cannot be used any other way. If you want to call me anti-woman that will be a rather difficult undertaking. I belong to the generation that fought for women’s rights.

  20. @Lutra lutra–Hungarian no wit for conspiracy…
    It ain’t the Hungarians!
    They’re just on the receiving end of cash & instructions…it’s a freebie, really. Circa (guessing here) 50 million euros to try to sink the EU and return the Baltic states (for starters) to the Soviet (sic) fold. As a gamble, not a bad play. Who needs arms: polluting politicians is a much surer way…

  21. Joseph Simon:
    Kinga Göncz was an excellent representative of Hungary as foreign minister. A phone call from her was gladly answered by leaders throughout Europe and the world. During her tenure Hungary enjoyed a very positive image and reputation, receiving considerable goodwill and reinforcing the sense that Hungary was a country which reliably met its international obligations, politically, economically, militarily, and culturally.

  22. GW: “Kinga Göncz was an excellent representative of Hungary as foreign minister. ”
    She was very much liked in the American embassy as well. One can read about her relation with the US Embassy in the Wikileaks documents

  23. @GW: Sir — or madam! — thank you. Parliamentary manoeuvring (amendments, motions to close off debate, motions to move the matter to a different forum…) confuse me; it takes a while to understand, with much comparison, which of the votes addresses the measure itself, which is the vote of real importance. But with application I have, I think, understood that — no surprise here! — the United Kingdom Independence Party’s members backed Fidesz to a (wo)man.

  24. Wondercat,
    Fidesz also had the support of the German Left party, the successor to the communist SED. What a set of fellow travelers!

  25. Joseph Simon,
    You obviously have no idea what the job of a foreign minister is, and probably less of an idea about what diplomacy is.

  26. @Wondercat – well, given UKIP’s mandate, it would have been totally illogical for them to vote otherwise.

  27. “…the United Kingdom Independence Party’s members backed Fidesz to a (wo)man”
    The UK Conservatives (including Bokros’s chum, Mr Hannan) as part of the ECR abstained- those 32 missing votes would have brought Orban a lot closer to pulling off a PR coup. Considering the Conservatives are arch EU-sceptics, the fact that they refused to back a “brave” “wee” country standing up to the “EUcracy” should tells you something.

  28. “The UK Conservatives (including Bokros’s chum, Mr Hannan) as part of the ECR abstained”
    Wow! I wouldn’t have thought that – didn’t Fidesz hire a PR-company in London ?
    Obviously they’re not worth the money they got – or maybe Fidesz didn’t pay up ?

  29. Allow me to shine a lite on our friendly neighbourhood Soviet,
    Mr. Valentyin Mihov of Szberbank which will be taking over the Volksbank offices in Hungary. This high lite of Russian financial genius–Mr. Mihove–isexpecting to make great advances in getting new Hungarian deposits. OH YEAH! The flatlands of Hungary is flooded with citizenry waiting to take their millions out of their mattresses for the safety of a Russian bank. Yup, all those complains about paying off their Swiss loans were a bluff. The Russkies will unearth the hidden wealth of brave Hungary. I dare say, Orban will soon see the light and say: “Why should I bother with Brussels and their loutish efforts to dismantle my little kleptocracy…Mother Russia will see to our wants!

  30. A strange coincidence – the percentage the vote was won by (compared to the total voting/abstaining) was just over 50% – not that much different to the percentage who voted Fidesz in 2010.

  31. GW: “The voting records of the EU Parliament can be found here, indexed by individual, party, and state:”
    I am not sure that I found the correct link, I read that 277 people voted yes and 305 no and that it was not adopted, or have I looked at some amendment or minor point? I was offered the German version of the site and found a point called “Politische Entwicklung in Ungarn in letzter Zeit”.

  32. “The Hungarian government “is ready for intelligent dialogue,”
    I would like to learn what in the eyes of Mr Kovacs is intelligent dialogue. Seriously.
    So far my guess is:
    “Hungary is a sovereign state.”
    “Hungary is a respected member of the EU.”
    “Hungary is entirely free to decide which part of European laws it wishes to implement.”
    “Nobody should doubt Hungary’s dedication to European values.”
    “That is why we made our Revolution. In Hungary, democracy is threatened by so many evil forces, which is why Fidesz eventually took over and now makes sure that those dubious fellows will not interfere with democracy.”
    “The other Europeans actually admire this Revolution, as it fully reflects the ideas of free speech (free insults – for some), participation (of the chosen few), rule of the law (the Holy Crown), equality (in poverty for those who deserve it) and decent life (for the ruling elite).”
    “The EU will do its utmost to relieve sufferings due to the Mongol invasion, Ottoman rule, Habsburg rule, Trianon, Soviet rule and EU rule and the inconvenience of being surrounded only by peoples speaking alien languages.”

  33. It’s deja vu all over again.
    Am I alone in sensing a depressing similarity between the egotistical, barricaded minds of Fideszers and those sterling figures of National Socialism?

  34. g.stillt: “ kálmán olga helps to understand whatt’s happening.”
    Wowww I am not even sure what to say. Palffy’s comment:
    “Once and for all we should find out what is going on here” said Pallfy in regards to KDNP’s opinion that the [Hungary’s] socialist representatives to the EP do not represent Hungary’s interests, and so they are traitors and the left-wing politicians should held accountable.”
    I guess, in new Hungary the slogan will become “Long live Orban!”
    Never mind that Orban told to foreign dignitaries that he can be trusted with betraying his election promises to Hungarians… Of course Orban was never held accountable for this, and it was swept under the carpet. Orban done more harm to this country in the last few years, then any politicians in their lifetime. Why people spend their lives searching for what their purpose are, Orban and his busy buddies can be comforted by the notion that they have created the most divided Hungarian population since the early years of Feudalism.

  35. I strongly suspect the reason why Daniel Hannan abstained in the debate is because feels the EU has no right lecturing other countries about democracy, given its own rather dubious history in this realm. My own love affair with the EU ended when the made the Irish vote again on the Lisbon treaty because they gave the “wrong answer” the first time. Of course, I’m delighted in a short-sighted sort of way, when anyone applies pressure on Orbán’s government. But please don’t blind yourself to the true nature of the EU as it currently operates.

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