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Hungary - EU Relations

Hungary joined the EU in 2004. The compromises achieved at Nice paved the way for enlargement. The EU met its own deadline for being ready to enlarge. The end of Hungarys own accession negotiations hinged on the countrys completion of its own preparations. The principal aims of the government were to meet all the accession criteria by 2002 and to keep the national pro-European consensus as strong as possible.

During the first 6 months of 2011, Hungary held for the first time the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. The priorities of the Hungarian presidency, as outlined in its program entitled Strong Europe, include the promotion of Roma integration, supporting growth and increasing employment in the EU, expansion of the Schengen border regime area, and the enlargement of the European Union, with special emphasis on Croatias accession.

Hungarian officials were banned from entering the US [citing concerns over corruption], while the European Commission demanded that the Hungarians explain their decision to go ahead with South Stream. Thats on top of the European Commission launching legal action against the Hungarian government for its law restricting the rights of foreigners to buy agricultural land.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban is particularly keen to strengthen the euro-skeptics, pleading for more autonomy for individual member states and for a "Europe of Nations" in which conservative values once again play a larger role. China and Russia are taking advantage of Budapest's approach to continue its strategy of weakening Brussels with bilateral negotiations with EU states.

Hungary's relations with its EU partners had been strained since Viktor Orban became prime minister in 2010. There had been disputes over a range of issues. Orban was criticized for his authoritarian style, but his ruling Fidesz party enjoyed a two-thirds majority in parliament. Hungary's crackdown on migrants and refugees was a boon to the government's popularity. It had taken over the language and messages of a far-right anti-immigrant party - and was winning support. For Hungary, "zero immigration is optimal," the country's prime minister, Viktor Orban, said on 04 March 2016.

At a moment of really fragile solidarity in Europe, the European Commission was reluctant to act against Hungary for creating a dictatorship within the EU. If the EU institutions took such a strong stand on the internal affairs of a member state, this might be exactly the scenario the euro-skeptical parties in the UK will use as an excuse to take Britain out of the EU.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbn was the black sheep among EU leaders. Out of necessity, he was invited to EU meetings; hardly anyone was ready to meet him on a bilateral basis. The overall guideline was to try and contain him with a blend of subdued criticism, ignoring him and EU rule of law procedures.

Martin Schulz is a man of the past and represents the politics that caused the current problems, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Pter Szijjrt said on 30 January 2017 in reaction to a speech on the previous day by the German politician following his election as the Social Democratic Partys nominee for Chancellor. In a statement to Hungarian news agency MTI, Mr. Szijjrt wrote: It is obvious that a problem cannot be solved using the same way of thinking that caused the problem in the first place. Martin Schulz is incapable of change, and as such he is in fact hindering the reinforcement of European security and the protection of the European people, Hungarys chief diplomat said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade cited Mr. Schulzs speech, in which he said of Hungary: The fact that the CSU is courting and celebrating Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbn, who is the strongest proponent of disrupting European solidarity and who rejects all forms of solidarity with Germany when it comes to immigration policy, is an open violation of German interests.

European Green Party MEP Judith Sargentini had drawn up the report on the state of the rule of law in Hungary, which the European Parliaments Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) adopted in July with 37 member votes for and 19 against.

According to the document, civil liberties are being increasingly restricted in Hungary, and the report raises the possibility of stripping Budapest of its right to vote. In a tense vote on 12 September 2018, a majority of EU lawmakers backed a motion that opened the door to sanctions against Hungary. Orban's government was accused of silencing independent media, targeting NGOs and removing independent judges. The measure to trigger Article 7 sanctions procedures garnered the necessary majority needed to pass, with 448 voting in favor of the motion, 197 against and 48 abstentions. The move means that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government could eventually lose its EU voting rights. Prior to the vote, it was unclear how many members of the conservative European People's Party (EPP) bloc, the largest political group in the European Parliament, would support the measure.

Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty opens a path for sanctions against a member state and a temporary loss of EU Council voting rights. The mechanism is triggered when one of the bloc's members violates the vales of "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities." A unanimous vote is required to suspend Hungary's voting rights and launch sanctions a move that is likely to be blocked by Poland.

Orbn called the European Parliament debate on the Sargentini Report absurd, arguing: A few months ago perhaps five months ago, in April there was an election in Hungary. The Hungarian people decided what should happen, and during the election campaign we discussed all of the issues including CEU, the NGOs, and all of the important political issues. And the people decided on these issues. And now the European Parliament is taking upon itself the task of overruling the decision made by the people of Hungary, and forcing the Hungarian government to implement what they are attempting to impose on us in place of the peoples decision.

Orbn said that, as a member of the European Peoples Party, he can see that we are in trouble and that we are weak. We, the members of the European Peoples Party, are not strong enough to follow our own path. To me it seems that we are weak, and that we, the members of the European Peoples Party, are dancing to the tune of the socialists and the liberals. In the future I would like us to be able to change this.




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Page last modified: 12-09-2018 18:50:58 ZULU