Xpat Opinion: What’s The Big Deal With This Tavares Report About Hungary Anyway?

  • 8 Jul 2013 11:00 AM
Xpat Opinion: What’s The Big Deal With This Tavares Report About Hungary Anyway?
By Ferenc Kumin: The Hungarian Parliament accepted a declaration responding to the vote in the European Parliament. The declaration speaks of Hungary and Europe, particularly Hungary’s relationship with the European Union since joining in 2004, following a referendum that succeeded with a vast majority of popular support. It also speaks in detail about the legal foundation of the European Union and the powers of its institutions.

So what’s this all about? What’s does this back and forth this week between Budapest and the European Union mean? Here are some questions that come up, followed by the response to help clarify.

Q: Why do Hungarians say the report is politically motivated and that “it is a political agenda that leftist parties aim to impose on Hungary”?

A: That quote is from yesterday’s press release by the European People’s Party (EPP) group. The reason it’s seen as a political agenda is because while the greens, liberals and socialists all voted in favor of approving the report, the conservative and right-leaning members did not. The voting came down to 370 supportive votes and 331 votes not supporting. Those political forces that are opposed to the current Hungarian government pushed this report through with 39 votes out of 701, which is 2-3% of all the votes. It’s clear that one side supported it and the other did not.

Q: Why is Hungary, which speaks of itself as a land of freedom fighters, so upset by a report approved by the European Parliament on rights and freedoms in Hungary?

A: It’s more than simply a statement promoting rights and freedoms. The Tavares Report formulates recommendations for Hungarian legislators, mostly regarding issues that fall under national competence, and, according to the report, if Hungary fails to follow these recommendations, the leftwing majority threatens to start the process to suspend Hungary’s voting rights in the EU. Wouldn’t the British government push back if a leftwing European Parliament attempted to force a similar ruling on London?

Remember, Article 4 of the Treaty of the European Union clearly states that “competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States.”

That’s the reason Prime Minister Orbán said in the Hungarian Parliament today that “the European Union has stepped over a line: now it violates its own treaties.”

Q: But the European Parliament has the right to do that doesn’t it?

A: No, it does not. Rules of the European Union are built on rigid foundations on which all the member states have to agree. None of the treaties signed by the member states gives such power to the European Parliament. The EU Treaty gives that power to the European Commission or the European Court (which starts a procedure at the request of the Commission).

There is a very good reason for that: It’s to avoid situations like the one that has just taken place, where one political block exploits the European Union to force their opinion on a member state government.

Q: The methods of the report might be criticized, but after all, there should be some kind of monitoring in place to keep member states in line. The EU has a right to say something in this regard, doesn’t it?

A: Precisely, but there are institutions already responsible for that, namely the European Commission or, separate from the EU, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, and the Hungarian government is engaged in a dialogue with those competent institutions on these questions.

Q: Isn’t the Council of Europe preparing a monitoring procedure for Hungary?

A: No. A similar initiative was attempted in the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe, which is not an EU institution. But in that case, the proposal was rejected by the Council of Europe’s own Parliamentary Assembly because the report was found to be biased and had other problems as well. The Hungarian government, however, continues its dialogue with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Q: Why is this happening now? What’s the purpose of all this?

A: Don’t forget that there will be parliamentary elections in Hungary as well as elections for the European Parliament in 2014. Many parties have an interest in keeping this debate alive with talk of a “monitoring-like” mission.

Q: Okay, so what about the other side? What would the Hungarian government want?

A: The aim of the Hungarian government is not to avoid debates. Over the last three years, the Hungarian parliament passed more than 600 new laws and a new constitution, the Fundamental Law. We always thought there would be debates. But we would prefer to keep these debates fact-based and professional and within those institutions that have the legitimate authority to engage in these questions concerning a sovereign, independent state. Those institutions are, within the EU, the European Commission and, outside the EU, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Source: A Blog About Hungary

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