The building of the European Parliament in Brussels – Photo: wikipedia

Justice minister hails 'constructive' talks with EC

Fidesz blasts EP for waging ‘continued attacks against Hungary’

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party blasted the European Parliament for "still busily attacking Hungary even amid the current crisis", after the EP voted to approve the Hungary rule-of-law report on Thursday.

According to the report approved with 433 votes in favour, 123 against and 28 abstentions, European Union values are under threat in Hungary, and the country “can no longer be considered a full democracy”.

The report says democracy and fundamental rights in Hungary had further deteriorated through the “deliberate and systematic efforts of the Hungarian government” since the EP launched the Article 7 procedure against the country in 2018.

The protection of EU values enshrined in the bloc’s founding treaties have deteriorated since 2018, the report said, adding that the situation had been “exacerbated by EU inaction”. The lack of decisive EU action, it said, had contributed to the emergence of a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”.

The report said the state of Hungary’s justice system, corruption, conflicts of interest and human rights remained key concerns, as did the functioning of the country’s constitutional and electoral system and freedom of expression, including media pluralism.

It also lists academic and religious freedom, freedom of association, the right to equal treatment, including LGBTQ rights, minority rights, the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees as “problematic” areas.

The report calls on the European Commission to make full use of all tools at its disposal, especially the mechanism in the EU budget linking funding to the rule of law, to remedy the situation.

The MEPs who backed the report also urged the EC not to approve Hungary’s post-pandemic recovery plan until the country has fully complied with all relevant European Semester recommendations and implemented all the relevant judgements of the EU court and the European Court of Human Rights.

They also called on the executive body to exclude Hungary from funding cohesion programmes where there is suspicion of the misuse of EU funds or rule-of-law violations. Also, EU funds should be distributed through local governments rather than government organisations, they said.

Fidesz: Brussels wants to punish Hungary

Fidesz said in a statement: “The people of Europe are enduring an energy crisis thanks to Brussels’ failed sanctions, yet the left-wing European Parliament’s priority, even so, is to attack Hungary.” “Brussels wants to punish Hungary … and withhold the money that is due to the country,” it added.

Fidesz attributed the EP vote to the government’s refusal to allow illegal migrants into Hungary and LGBTQ propaganda into schools, as well as its opposition to “Brussels’ sanctions that have caused the energy crisis”.

Referring to Hungarian MEP Klara Dobrev, the statement decried Hungarian left-wing MEPs “led by Ms. Gyurcsany” for “working against their own country”.

Justice minister hails ‘constructive’ talks with EC

It is important that Hungary’s European partners see that the country has conducted its talks with the European Commission aimed at boosting the transparency of public procurements “in a constructive spirit” over the summer, Justice Minister Judit Varga said in Paris on Thursday.

It is also crucial that Hungary’s partners get a better understanding of the country’s stance on the rule-of-law procedures, the war in Ukraine and the energy sanctions imposed on Russia, Varga told MTI after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron’s Europe advisor and Laurence Boone, France’s state secretary for European affairs.

Varga noted that Hungary had put forward several proposals in its response letter to the European Commission late last month, and was in agreement with its negotiating partners at the talks in Brussels that the transparent utilisation of EU funds was as much in the interest of EU citizens as it was in that of Hungarian taxpayers. “It is a shared interest for which the Hungarian government has been able to provide far-reaching guarantees,” the minister said.

“We have done everything the EU has asked, so we await the positive evaluation,” she added.

Varga praised the “constructive, positive and solution-oriented tone” of the talks between the EC and Hungary, saying that they had involved Hungarian representatives reacting to “specific questions and proposals” rather than the EC expressing “a general dissatisfaction” with Hungary.

“We’re working to maintain this positive mood and conduct with the European Commission, which right now is part of the solution,” she said. “It’s good if the powerful European countries keeping up with the talks between the European Commission and Hungary know all this.”

Concerning Hungary’s proposals, the minister noted that Hungary will reduce the share of public procurement procedures with a single bidder to below 15 percent, ensure legal remedy against the prosecutor’s decisions in corruption cases, set up an authority to oversee and guarantee the regularity of public procurements at the highest level and develop performance measurement systems that will also assess the cost-effectiveness of public procurements.

Varga’s talks in Paris also touched on the EU’s sanctions imposed on Russia.

She said the war and associated sanctions had caused Europe’s economic hardships such as inflation, sky-high food and energy prices, and unstable energy supplies, adding that Hungary’s standpoint on energy-related sanctions was based on facts on the ground rather than being ideologically motivated.

“New energy sanctions would prove fatal for central Europe for historical, geographical and physical reasons, while Europe’s interests wouldn’t be served either,” she said.

The emphasis should be on working for peace instead of enhancing “wartime sanctions”, she said, adding that it should be recognised that sanctions “are more damaging to the side that enforces them than to their target”.

Varga said the French were “very pragmatic”. “The notion of the European community projected by President Emmanuel Macron is crucial for the future of Europe,” she said, noting points of commonality in Hungarian and French positions.

Varga travelled on to Madrid to discuss the upcoming Spanish-Belgian-Hungarian EU presidency.

Spain takes over the presidency in July next year before handing it over to Belgium in December. In the second half of 2024, Hungary will take over. She said the Hungarian presidency would play a decisive role in the establishment of a new European Commission and Council after the European Parliament elections. “Hungary always backs European solutions that do not ignore people’s interests,” she said.

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