The European Union must protect European democracy in Hungary

PHOTOGRAPHER: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTOGRAPHER: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The illiberal authoritarian drift in Hungary has been going on for too long. Yesterday the Hungarian President signed into law the disgraceful bill that will outlaw the Central European University. A draft NGO law – modelled on Russia’s similar law – that will force all civil society organisations receiving funding from outside the country to label themselves ‘foreign funded’ is under discussion. Civil society organisations critical of the government are routinely described as enemies of the people by government figures. In March the parliament voted to detain all asylum seekers in containers, including children, in flagrant disregard of fundamental rights.

These further authoritarian moves come after years of the Orban government undermining the constitution, undermining media freedom, intimidating critical civil society in the country.

Students and others are again protesting on the streets of Budapest, in the largest protests seen since Orban attempted to tax internet in 2014. European Alternatives is with them and sends them our support.

It is a disgrace that the Fidesz party of Victor Orban is still welcome in the European People’s Party, the largest party in the European Parliament. At the least the EPP should suspend membership for a party which is clearly no longer supporting European values and norms of democracy.

It is a disgrace that the Fidesz party of Victor Orban is still welcome in the European People’s Party, the largest party in the European Parliament. At the least the EPP should suspend membership for a party which is clearly no longer supporting European values and norms of democracy. Keeping Fidesz to maintain a majority in the parliament is shortsighted cynicism: what use is there to have a majority if you allow the institution itself to be undermined?

The European Commission is meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the situation in Hungary. Some members of the Commission have already expressed support for the protests in the country. On Wednesday the Commission must go further and use the powers and responsibilities it is conferred by the Treaties to sanction the Orban government. These powers range from infringement procedures to suspending payments to starting a Article 7 procedure leading to suspend the voting rights of Hungary in the European Council. We have already seen how authoritarianism left unchecked and unchallenged infects other European countries, with the case of Poland. Now is the time for the Commission to exercise its authority in the name of democracy in Europe.


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In 2016, Civil Society Europe and Civicus conducted a survey on civic space in Europe in order to assess the perception by civil society actors on key civic space freedoms (freedom of association, assembly, expression), challenges, opportunities as well as their views on political trends in Europe. The survey results confirmed the worrying developments, especially in the eyes of respondents from Central and Eastern Europe. You can download the Fact sheet prepared: DOWNLOAD HUNGARY FACT SHEET

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