Council of Europe: Debate on the functioning of democracy in Hungary

The discussion just ended. One could follow it live on the Internet at the website of the Council of Europe. I assume that eventually the debate in the Parliamentary Assembly will also be available on video.

Let me jot down my first impressions. First and foremost, I would be most surprised if Björn von Sydow, a Swedish socialist member of the Parliamentary Assembly, were right that the Council of Europe would initiate a "monitoring procedure" against Hungary because of human rights violations. Most of the speakers took the Orbán government's side. There were fierce Hungarian supporters of the government while no Hungarian socialist was present. Apparently, the two Hungarian socialist members of the body were unable to attend. One of them is visiting India while the other is in the United States. Considering that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council Europe meets only four times a year it is beyond me why the socialists decided to make travel plans during the first session of the year.

Although it is true that at least one conservative member, Lord Tim Boswell of Great Britain, condemned the Orbán government's nationalism and severely criticized the media law, most of the right-of-center speakers were a great deal more charitable. The Hungarian speakers simply spouted the usual Hungarian propaganda about building democracy instead of violating its rules.

The socialist Andreas Gross of Switzerland and the Swedish Kerstin Lundgren (liberal) were among the few critics. As "friends of Hungary" they felt that they have to speak out because otherwise they would fail the Hungarian people. Lundgren said that "the whistleblowers" must be listened to. She very much hoped that the Hungarian government will be good to its word and will make the necessary changes in the law. Another socialist from Moldavia, Grigore Petrenco, was also deeply concerned, especially because the board overseeing the media consists of people delegated by only one party. He mentioned the attack on the constitutional court. Just because a government has a two-thirds majority in parliament it mustn't behave as the leader of "a one-party system." According to him "monitoring procedures should be introduced."

Well, that was about the last criticism of the Hungarian government. Christos Pourgourides, a Cypriot Christian Democrat, launched the defense. The government has a two-thirds majority in parliament and therefore whatever the government does is "the will of the people." If there is something wrong with government actions there are courts. The Hungarian government is in consultation with the European Union and he hopes that the law will be changed before the question ends up on the table of the European Court. Monitoring is not necessary.

The Italian Luca Volonte, who is described as a leading social conservative, criticized the proceedings against Hungary because of "a lack of facts."  Any criticism of the government inside of Hungary comes from "people who are unhappy that they were not reelected." Holger Haibach (a German Christian Democrat) went on and on about the Hungarian socialists who ruined the country. He cited the corruption of the earlier governments but deemed Viktor Orbán's Hungary "a genuine European regime."

Then came the Hungarian contingent. Márton Braun (Fidesz), one of the deputy speakers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, announced that they are not worried because "Hungary is a solid democracy." The European Union's criticism of the law doesn't touch on substantive points. They are "only technical issues," he said. Imre Vejkey (Christian Democrat) started with Gyurcsány and his alleged lies, as if they had anything to do with the current state of democracy in Hungary. He repeated the old story that the criticism leveled against the media law is based on "ignorance." He "categorically rejected" any such "attacks" on the Hungarian government.

Next came Tamás Gaudi-Nagy (Jobbik) who was also chosen by the Hungarian government to defend its actions. He went on about the unfair treatment of the Council of Europe when it never criticized "eight years of awful dictatorship." Attila Gruber (Fidesz) addressed the situation of the civil servants who as a result of a new law can be fired without any explanation. This was necessary only because of the economic straits the country finds herself in at the moment. It has absolutely nothing to do with "political spring cleaning." As for the new constitution, he claimed that the old one was "Stalinist." The new one will be truly European with an eye on "national traditions." Melinda Széky (Fidesz) praised Hungary's twenty-year-old democracy which the government is now rebuilding and strengthening. All criticism against the Fidesz government is based on erroneous information. And for good measure György Frunda, a Hungarian politician from Romania, came to the rescue of the Orbán government. He wasn't satisfied with only twenty years of Hungarian democracy. He talked about "centuries of democracy"!  Although he admitted that perhaps Fidesz made a mistake in appointing only people close to the party to oversee the state of the Hungarian media, on the whole the government is on the right track. Hungary is a democracy and therefore "Hungary must be respected."

Fidesz was well prepared and I think that they achieved what they wanted.

 

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Paul
Guest

1-0 to Fidesz by the sound of it.
I wonder what the trolls will attack in today’s piece?

John G
Guest

Socialist own goal.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Fidesz didn’t do much on this occasion. It turned out the way it did because they were mostly EPP fraction members who spoke.
And even though I was very happy to see in the news in the morning that “Hungarian” socialists won’t be able to attend this sitting, I was not so happy to see the European socialists’ low turnout. I could say they were probably influenced by last week’s events when they saw clearly that they can’t put a pressure on Orbán with effect. But I don’t know the real reasons, maybe I’m not right.
Maybe Mr. Schulz, the Socialists’ caucus leader remembers the very embarrassing situation when someone asked him about why the Tunisian dictator’s party was only recently kicked out of the Socialist International, when at the same time, they are so actively “interested” in Hungary’s new media situation.
Or maybe, after the letter from Neelie Kroes of the European Commission, the socialists didn’t think they could continue attacking Hungary’s government with credibility. Maybe.
All of these could be very legitimate reasons.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Oh, I forgot the most important bit!
This is new news: http://www.mno.hu/portal/762039
For Troll Paul, who is totally absorbed in attacking my level of English, probably with moral ground to do it as his Hungarian language skills certainly surpass my English skills, reading this article must be a no-brainer.

An
Guest

Fidesz is busy importing the divisive political tactics that worked so well for them in Hungary (labelling all criticism as politically motivated originating from the “evil” socialists). The same political tactic that was so detrimental for Hungary (of course, very advantageous for Fidesz). I wonder what kind of damage Orban’s tactic could do at a European level. Can he turn otherwise civilized political opponents into enemies like he did in Hungary? Hope he won’t be successful in accomplishing that.

Kirsten
Guest

That must have been a farce but compared with the other topics debated today (war crimes and justice on the Balkans) the Hungarian problems (luckily) still appear manageable. But that is no excuse for that the issue had to be advanced by a Swiss, a Swedish and a Moldovian instead of Hungarians themselves. For me this only confirms that MSZP should not be counted on and that a sensible opposition to Fidesz has to be created nearly from scratch.

An
Guest

@Kirsten: I wonder of MSzP stayed out of this on purpose? As they are already accused of being the orchestrator of a political attack on their own country.. (see Kevin’s link to MNO for example).
It was quite a mistake, as Fidesz is going to blame them, no matter what.

Kevin Moore
Guest

An: “labelling all criticism as politically motivated originating from the “evil””
Strange, this tactic is the one I see now from the “philosophers” who can’t account for the money they took with fake contracts (where they were usually the contract assessors as well), yet they label everything as a politically motivated attack.
“Can he turn otherwise civilized political opponents into enemies like he did in Hungary?”
He didn’t turn anybody into anything in Hungary. It was not Fidesz who started lying back in 2002 about how László Kövér told those people who disagree with the government to hang themselves, it was not Fidesz who was spreading the racist lies about how 23 million Romanians would flood Hungary, it was not Fidesz who fuelled up the Hungarians in Hungary against the Hungarians in the neighbouring countries during the 2004 state citizenship vote.
It is not Fidesz doing such abominable, misanthrophical propaganda.
And if you think those in the EU are civilized, look at how Danny the Red Kohn-Bandit was bawling lies with his purple head. Or, for that matter, how my favourite Nigel Farage was insulting Herman van Rompuy not too long ago.

wHY WOULD
Guest

Kevin Moore: “And even though I was very happy to see in the news in the morning that “Hungarian” socialists won’t be able to attend this sitting”
Why would you happy about this? Don’t you want a balanced discussion? You think that the European conservatives can win only if there are no socialists and liberals present?

An
Guest

@Kevin: “It is not Fidesz doing such abominable, misanthrophical propaganda.” Of course not. Fidesz would never do abominable, misanthropic propaganda… I know. And Orban Viktor never lies. Of course.

wHY WOULD
Guest

An: “I wonder what kind of damage Orban’s tactic could do at a European level. Can he turn otherwise civilized political opponents into enemies like he did in Hungary?”
Not impossible.

wHY WOULD
Guest

Kirsten: “For me this only confirms that MSZP should not be counted on and that a sensible opposition to Fidesz has to be created nearly from scratch.”
I was shocked.

John G
Guest

@Kirsten. “For me this only confirms that MSZP should not be counted on and that a sensible opposition to Fidesz has to be created nearly from scratch.”
With Ms Szili and Mr. Szanyi babbling all over the place and Mr. Mesterhazi on French leave ANY activity within the MSZP may actually be considered something from scratch.
It is actually a major surprise for me that the MSZP has not dropped in the polls. I guess they are at their core supporter levels now, those who would vote MSZP, no matter what.

wHY WOULD
Guest

An: “I wonder of MSzP stayed out of this on purpose? As they are already accused of being the orchestrator of a political attack on their own country.”
I just received a letter from someone who heard Attila Mesterházy yesterday in Washington. She also thinks that this was the reason.
However, I don’t think that was a good strategy.

wHY WOULD
Guest

Kevin Moore: “look at how Danny the Red Kohn-Bandit was bawling lies with his purple head.”
Do you know what he said? I very much doubt it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sorry the Why would….. is me.

Kirsten
Guest

An: “I wonder what kind of damage Orban’s tactic could do at a European level. Can he turn otherwise civilized political opponents into enemies like he did in Hungary?”
wHY WOULD: Not impossible.
Impossible. I am sorry to say that but most countries have learned to debate in a bit more constructive manner, accepting that there are diverse views and consider the open society as a means to balance these diverse views. (Not to speak of that it is unlikely that these politicians will start to ponder on which Hungarian politician said which “lies” and whether other politicians were the brave ones when they detected such misbehaviour. There are certainly enough problems in their own parties and countries.)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kristen: “An: “I wonder what kind of damage Orban’s tactic could do at a European level. Can he turn otherwise civilized political opponents into enemies like he did in Hungary?” wHY WOULD: Not impossible. Impossible.”
I hope you’re right. But I look around in the United States and look what is happening here.

An
Guest

@Kirsten: “I am sorry to say that but most countries have learned to debate in a bit more constructive manner, accepting that there are diverse views and consider the open society as a means to balance these diverse views. “.
I hope you are right and that that these constructive practices are well-rooted. And also, Hungary is to small of a fish to cause a big stir in European politics. Hopefully Orban won’t have the influence and time to make a lasting impact in the EU.
I hope. Because I think that his character and what he represents is toxic.

Kirsten
Guest

An: I wonder of MSzP stayed out of this on purpose? As they are already accused of being the orchestrator of a political attack on their own country..
I see your point, but it would nevertheless mean that they have no strategy. They apparently accept the notion of criticism being an attack on the nation…

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “I wonder of MSzP stayed out of this on purpose? As they are already accused of being the orchestrator of a political attack on their own country.”
That’s exactly what I wanted to say. They are already accused of creating the whole anti-Hungarian propaganda against Hungary. So, what is the difference?

Paul
Guest

“Don’t you want a balanced discussion?”
Of course he doesn’t, he’s a troll.
He only exists to wind us up, so we waste our time arguing nonsense with phantoms.
Don’t feed the trolls.

Kirsten
Guest

Éva, An: I did not want to say that it were impossible that European politicians hated each other and that they were instead always guided by the noble idea of a compromise. I meant it with reference to this particular case: in my impression Viktor Orban cannot divide the other EU politicians in a way he divided the Hungarian society. I think this sounds a bit more plausible…

Paul
Guest

A little troll logic for your entertainment:
“All it takes from you is to ask me to leave this forum… I will if you don’t want to see my comments.” Kevin Moore | January 23, 2011 at 04:15 PM
“I thought you were leaving this blog, ‘Kevin’?” Paul | January 25, 2011 at 08:20 AM
“I’ll probably leave soon anyway, but the more you insult me, the longer I stay.” Kevin Moore | January 25, 2011 at 10:37 AM
“And I asked if you wanted me to leave but I didn’t specify a time frame.” Kevin Moore | January 25, 2011 at 05:15 PM
It’s quite fun doing this (following troll ‘logic’ across several threads). It takes a bit of time, thanks to Typepad’s wonderfully user-friendly navigation, but it is strangely satisfying.

An
Guest

@Paul: I really don’t mind Kevin. It feels like reading Magyar Nemzet or any other right-wing paper. At least all the English speakers get a taste of those.

Paul
Guest

I quite enjoy the trolls, An, both of them make me chuckle quite frequently, especially when ‘Kevin’ gets annoyed and his English starts to fall apart! I love ‘Joseph”s mad USA posts too – a troll obsessed if ever there was one.
But I do wish other posters wouldn’t take their bait. They’re not the least bit interested in serious debate, they just want to clog up the blog. It’s just a form of spam really.

Minusio
Guest

Turning to the third comment, written by the troll-in-residence: Could it be that he doesn’t know the difference between the Council of Europe and the European Parliament? Kind of clueless, eh? [I suggest Google, as a basic remedy.]

Kirsten
Guest

Éva, An: I think the Hungarian internal conflict has received much attention in the EU because freedom of the press (and other liberties) is considered a high priority, where “Europe” wishes to set the standard for others. Some commentators have also been worried for some time about the rise of Jobbik. But although Brussels or other places sometimes do criticise procedures (such as missing transparency, corruption, insufficiently independent courts, or the unequal treatment of Roma) in the “new” member states, “Europe” does not have answers to that either (also because often they are not entitled to act). Therefore the “Hungarian conflict” may lead to heated discussions in the other European countries as well, but I doubt that it could become as divisive as in Hungary. For an outsider it is also rather difficult to comprehend the origin of the conflict, it is not the media law. (I think that I still fail to understand, the debate is centered around who lied when and who admitted lies or not and it always gets back to this.) And I thought that in such a situation the European politicians may choose to see that as a matter on which opinions may differ…

An
Guest

@Eva: By the way, your comment on the US is right on. I trust, though, that the American democratic traditions can survive the waves of rising populism. Much better than Hungary.

Kirsten
Guest

And (last point): not to forget that European politicians only learn to be really tough to each other, it is still not considered “genuinely domestic policy” to criticise politicians of other nations.

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