*This article was first published in Dagsavisens Nye Meninger
Some may say it is too late, but it is nevertheless a crucial event. EU politicians must reaffirm that the rule of law, respect for human rights and for democratic values are still the leading principles in the Union and that blatantly disregarding your obligations as a member country has consequences. The rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms are not and should not be negotiable. Triggering Article 7 is not about Hungary, it is about the principles of the European Union.
The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail (Art. 2, Treaty of Lisbon).
Obliged to comply
Hungary joined the European Union in 2004 and ratified the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008. Under the treaty Hungary is obliged to comply with democratic values, defend and protect human rights and ensure the rule of law in the country.
The current government in Hungary has nevertheless chosen a different path, systematically breaking its commitments over the past 8 years. It undermined the independence of the courts, it curbed the freedom of the media, it restricts the lawful activities of civil society organizations, curbs academic freedom and promotes intolerance and discrimination. The basic values on which the European Union is founded and which many Hungarians still ardently support have been wiped out. Reactions from the European Union have so far been too weak and ineffective.
Right-winged populism is spreading
Similar trends are spreading across the EU. The Polish government led by the Law and Justice Party has similarly curbed the independence of the judiciary and has restricted the freedom of the Polish citizens to peacefully gather and express their views. The government “compensates” the loss of fundamental freedoms by introducing populist measures such as increase in childcare support.
Right-winged populism is spreading across the Union and coalitions are being formed. Germany’s Alternative for Germany entered the Bundestag with surprising results. Anti-immigrant Andrej Babis became Czech Republic’s prime minster. Austria’s far-right populist Freedom Party joined the governing coalition. Milos Zeman with his fierce anti-Muslim rhetoric won the presidency in Czech Republic. Italy’s far-right and Eurosceptic parties have gained massive support. Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini and Hungary’s prime minister Victor Orbán are now jointly promoting an anti-immigration stand.
EU politicians must take a stand and put the common values of the European Union first.