Daniel Freund

22. October 2020 Anti-Corruption

Situation in Hungary is deteriorating noticeably - No movement by EU member states to protect democracy and the rule of law

Dear journalists,

Dear everyone interested,

After the start of the negotiations for the protection of democracy in the EU (“rule of law mechanism”) last week, I travelled to Hungary again to exchange views with those who suffer the most from the system of Viktor Orban: Free press, opposition members, homeless people.

The current developments are shocking.

Cutting radio frequencies, public funding, heating

  • Authorities threaten to take the radio station KlubRadio off the air. The reason: because it is critical of the government. I spoke to the editors of the largest independent radio station in Hungary. They are desperate. They stand before the end of their life’s work.
  • Authorities were trying to turn off the gas for the hospital/homeless shelter of priest Gabor Ivanyi. Ivanyi used to be a companion of Viktor Orban but now he is very critical of the Hungarian Prime Minister. Ivanyi tells me about dramatic developments in the past weeks. He could only prevent the gas for his soup kitchen from being turned off by standing on the manhole cover of the gas connection for hours.
  • The capital Budapest is running out of public funding. The reason: It’s governed by a mayor of the Green opposition. Mayor Gergely Karacsonyi tells me that Budapest was hit particularly hard by the lack of tourism during the Corona pandemic. However, the city was left completely empty-handed when EU tourism funds were allocated – instead, the 1,800 inhabitant village where Orban was born is now being promoted with EU funds as one of the country’s main tourist attractions.

(You can find the pictures of my trip to Hungary HERE on my Instagram page: instagram.com/europafreund)

This is the situation in Hungary, a member state of the European Union, in October 2020. Even the rule of law report by the European Union and admonitory words of the EU Commission on the subject of the rule of law do not stop Viktor Orbán from harassing opposition members, activists and journalists. Without decisive action by the European Union and a change of direction, there will be no improvement of this disastrous situation. I am convinced that only financial sanctions can divert the government in Budapest from its authoritarian course.

Negotiations to protect the rule of law: Orbán sits at the negotiating table

Negotiations on a sanction mechanism for violations of the rule of law and democracy are currently underway in Brussels. On Tuesday the negotiators of the European Parliament and the German Council Presidency met for a second time. Unfortunately, this time again the European Council did not respond to the good proposals of the European Parliament.

It seems that the German negotiating side has walled itself in on one crucial detail: how to trigger financial sanctions. The detail is central, because: in the form proposed by Germany, the rule-of-law mechanism would basically be rendered useless. The vehemence with which the German Council Presidency is defending this proposal reinforces the impression that Viktor Orbán is virtually sitting at the negotiating table. He is regularly introduced to the debate without mentioning his name: “You know who we are talking about.” With the current stalemate and the unwillingness to reach a compromise, an early agreement seems unlikely here.