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03/02/2012 Zita Gurmai: The Hungarian people will not be taken in by Orban’s populism

With the new Hungarian Constitution a hot topic for debate, Zita Gurmai gave an interview to comment on the Hungarian Prime Minister’s speech in the European Parliament on January 18th 2012. It was an opportunity for the MEP to discuss the political climate in her country.

The debate on the Hungarian Constitution that took place in the European Parliament in mid-January will go down as one of the most animated discussions that MEPs have ever seen there. Following the procedure launched on Tuesday January 17th by the European Commission against the Hungarian government, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived the very next day to explain matters to MEPs.

The President of the European Commission explained that formal notice was given to Hungary on the independence of its central bank, its judicial system and its data protection authority. “Beyond the legal aspects, I ask for the respect of democracy in Hungary in the best interest of Hungarians”, said José Manuel Barroso adding that “we will not hesitate to take further measures as we do not want a dark cloud hanging over Hungarian democracy.”

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, believes that the problems raised in the infringement procedures could be “quickly and easily resolved”.  He went on to say that “the measures taken over the past year and a half were necessary because Hungary was on the brink of economic collapse in 2010.” The varying opinions in the house were divided along the lines of the different political allegiances as well as over how to react to the Hungarian situation.

Joseph Daul
, head of the European People’s Party (EPP), underlined the fact that the European Commission must be allowed to judge whether the Hungarian Constitution is in line with community law.

Guy Verhofstadt, speaking for the Liberals and Democrats, noted that “Different international organisations have raised serious concerns about the new Hungarian constitution, media law, and the central bank.”

Daniel Cohn Bendit’s
gloves also came off as he addressed Mr. Orban stating that, “the EU is not a welcome mat that you wipe your feet on but a house that we are all building together”.

According to Zita Gurmai, Mr. Orban’s attendance at the Parliament was not a good thing. She feels that they should have waited for the reaction of the Hungarian government after the procedure was launched by the European Commission before organising the debate. “This is not about politics but about protecting democracy and liberty for Hungarians. The Hungarian people who are the victim of all this will not be taken in by Orban’s populism”, said the MEP (S&D).

Hungarian MEP, Jozsef Szajer (EPP) defended Victor Orban’s government by reassuring MEPs about the political situation in his country. “Hungarians are not afraid; Hungary is an EU Member State that respects European legislation,” he said. Zita Gurmai was far from in agreement on this point. “I have been involved in many protests in my life yet the recent protest against the Hungarian Constitution was the first time I have felt afraid”, she said.

Speaking on behalf of the Danish Presidency of the Council, the Minister for European Affairs Nicolai Wammen stated that all Member States have to respect the rules laid out in the Treaties. In the event of doubts, it is the Commission’s duty to “examine and analyse the situation which is exactly what it is doing”, he said, while noting the importance of maintaining dialogue with Hungary.

The Hungarian situation could take a turn for the worse after the Council of European Finance Ministers decided on January 24th to open the way to unprecedented sanctions for excessive deficit against Hungary, thus approving a recommendation in line with the European Commission. This happened on the same day that the Commission welcomed Viktor Orban to Brussels to explain his changes to the Hungarian Constitution.

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