Barroso’s vision of a United Europe and Hungary

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission (EC), made a very important speech yesterday. He announced the need for a United Europe. From his speech it was evident that the EC has already prepared some of the steps necessary to modify the current European Union structure which, as has been manifest for some time, doesn’t work. His message was that “Europe needs a new direction. And, that direction cannot be based on old ideas. Europe needs a new thinking.” Because of the interconnected global markets a more powerful political system must be introduced.

The shield of the European Union

Specifically that means an economic union. Long postponed structural reforms must be undertaken and the European Union must continue its efforts to create a single European market. The EU must also create a European labor market. The member states must put more effort into education, research, innovation, and science. He mentioned a common budget that will help complete a single market. The European Central Bank should have a much greater role in handling monetary policy. The EU must “complete the economic and monetary union” of the member states. The EU must also “create a banking union and a fiscal union and the corresponding institutional and political mechanisms.” It seems that legislative proposals for a single European supervisory mechanism are ready to be presented for a vote. Not only will the ECB have a greater role to play; the EU also wants to create a European Banking Authority that would be responsible for the supervision of the banks in the euro zone.

And what about political union? Barroso would like to have union-wide political parties instead of the current disconnect between political parties in the capitals and the European political parties in Strasbourg. It seems that a legislative proposal to change this situation is also ready.

Then Barroso moved on to a topic that was most likely inspired by the two Victors: the Hungarian Viktor Orbán and the Romanian Vicktor Ponta. Let me quote these passages verbatim:

A political union also means that we must strengthen the foundations on which our Union is built: the respect for our fundamental values, for the rule of law and democracy.

In recent months we have seen threats to the legal and democratic fabric in some of our European states. The European Parliament and the Commission were the first to raise the alarm and played the decisive role in seeing these worrying developments brought into check.

But these situations also revealed limits of our institutional arrangements. We need a better developed set of instruments–not just the alternative between the “soft power” of political persuasion and the “nuclear option” of article 7 of the Treaty.

Our commitment to upholding the rule of law is also behind our intention to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office, as foreseen by the Treaties. We will come with a proposal soon.

As the Hungarian Index wittily remarked, “Barroso uttered the f-word,” meaning federation. A word that has been taboo in Europe until now. According to Barroso, “a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, a political union, with a coherent foreign and defense policy, means ultimately that the present European Union must evolve. Let’s not be afraid of the words: we will need to move towards a federation of nation states.”

And finally, here are a few key words that the current Hungarian government will have to mull over. “No one will be forced to come along. And no one will be forced to stay out.”

I guess I don’t have to speculate here about what Viktor Orbán’s reaction might have been. So far, however, he hasn’t reacted publicly at all. Unlike Vacláv Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, who immediately announced that he firmly rejected the idea presented by Jose Barroso and added that “the only thing [he] appreciates in [Barroso’s] proposal is that the current advocates of deeper European integration have for the first time openly admitted their real objectives.”

Viktor Orbán may have said nothing, but I doubt that Enikő Győri, undersecretary in charge of Hungary’s relations with the European Union, could possibly express an opinion without approval from a higher authority. In an interview given to Dow Jones she said that Hungary has doubts about the European Commission’s proposal to grant supervisory powers over banking in the eurozone to the European Central Bank. “Our decision on accepting the proposal will be based on whether obligations and rights in the new system will be equivalent. After a cursory reading, our understanding is that they will not,” she said. She added that accepting the supervisory authority of the ECB would entail meeting every obligation imposed, while at the same time limiting rights, and that the new system would have a great impact on financial institutions operating in Hungary. The main concern for Hungary is that banks outside the eurozone would not get their fair share from European crisis management funds and that locals would therefore seek to transfer their money to banks within the eurozone. Győri also mentioned that Hungary is planning to formulate a joint position together with the Czech Republic, Poland, and other non-eurozone states prior to the first official debate on the proposal at an informal meeting of EU finance minister in Cyprus on September 14-15.

I very much doubt that this is the most significant part of Hungary’s objections. I’m expecting a slow stream of protest against the idea of a federated Europe coming from members of the Hungarian government. But, as Barosso stressed, no one will force Hungary either to remain within it or to stay out.

As for the Fidesz members of the European Parliament, only Ildikó Gáll Pelcz spoke at the EP meeting following Barroso’s speech. According to her, “the plans of the Commission are nice and promising but they are not realistic.”  She complained that the ten countries outside the eurozone are effectively excluded from real participation. It is true that they can join, but they don’t receive any benefits by joining. On the other hand, if they decide to stay out, then they will have to suffer all the disadvantages of the decision.

I suspect that Mrs. Pelcz’s words bear the imprint of the attitude of Viktor Orbán. At least for the moment. Who knows what will happen tomorrow or the day after?

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petofi
Guest

Kudos to the EU, to Merkel, Hollande, Barroso and the rest.
A closer monitoring of banks and financial systems should’ve been in place on joining the EU. Of course, the East European brethren, so hotly joined at the hip with the money launderers of the former communist countries, will not like it. Too bad. Hungary and Czech Republic–both heavily influenced by Russia in the unseen background–will be quick to raise their voices in opposition. Let them stay out. I like this new muscular approach: put up or shut up. Of course, if Hungary stays out, it will eventually be wedded to that former evil empire…We’ll see how the country mustachios like that. Let them then march
500,000 abreast into the new Budapest of Herr Putyin.

Dubious
Guest

Dear Prime Ministers Cameron and Orbán,

I have noticed of late that the pair of you have been suffering from a series of scandals, a profound lack of direction and a drop in popularity.

Please accept this gift-wrapped issue for you both to begin campaigning on immediately – purpose built to give your governments direction and a purpose, as well as a distraction from your current woes.

Your friend (but don’t tell anyone),

José

spectator
Guest

As I see it Orban will use the speech at home to emphasize the importance of his “freedom fight”, pointing out the same aspect as Mr.Klaus has, namely “the real objectives”.
Another rally for “freedom” expected, along with the “won’t be colony” banners, and full media coverage, and in no time the mind of the population will be wiped clean of ax-murderers and IMF-lies, the World will again be round, the Earth back to her usual flat state – it’s Hungary, folks, remember?

Kirsten
Guest
I like this observation from the MEP of Fidesz: “the ten countries outside the eurozone are effectively excluded from real participation. It is true that they can join, but they don’t receive any benefits by joining. On the other hand, if they decide to stay out, then they will have to suffer all the disadvantages of the decision.” So is there a lack of benefits of joining, or are there disadvantages for staying out? I wonder how that can hold true at the same time… And regarding the statement by Vaclav Klaus, I think that he could have come across people who have been in favour of more integration also before. Certainly now he was forced to notice, and could not pretend to have never heard anything of the kind. But what he definitely misses by this statement is that this broad proposal for more integration is an attempt to solve the many problems in the euro area and in the EU (the political ones also mentioned by Eva). Some years ago the European Commission would not have dared to suggest that (there may have been an urgent need to improve the European architecture also but no pressure from the… Read more »
Julie
Guest

This in an interesting speech, particularly in light of all the problems with the Euro over the past year. Paul Krugman in the New York Times has done a good job explaining what’s gone wrong. There are many advantages to staying out of the Euro; by the same token, monetary union has become a disaster for Greece.

As for the federal project: Barroso’s speech does seem a little bit pie-in-the-sky. Think of the countries with federal systems of government: Germany, Mexico, Switzerland. The system works for them because of their common background of history, culture, etc. (this is an oversimplification, admittedly). The US, which also has a federal system, is heterogeneous like the EU–and the US needed a civil war to settle the governance issue of Washington v. the states. I wouldn’t expect most European state governments to surrender so much sovereignty that easily. Particularly in Eastern Europe, where they’ve only just got back their sovereignty 20-odd years ago. Whether that’s the correct attitude isn’t for me to say, but one can’t help but sympathize.

Member

Julie :The US, which also has a federal system, is heterogeneous like the EU–and the US needed a civil war to settle the governance issue of Washington v. the states.

I would call this quite oversimplifying the reasons of the Civil War, “governance issue of Washington”.

I do agree although with the pie-in-the-sky, as I am not sure how will they be able to push through the idea. I think the “poorer” countries would see this as a direct attack on their independence. As the EU is bringing on more and more standards, the people of Eastern Europe are puzzled to see that things that worked until now are “outlawed”. Orban loves such a controversy as it feeds his nationalistic agenda.
I for one also question if it is the right time for such a major political overhaul right now.

petofi
Guest
Some1 : Julie :The US, which also has a federal system, is heterogeneous like the EU–and the US needed a civil war to settle the governance issue of Washington v. the states. I would call this quite oversimplifying the reasons of the Civil War, “governance issue of Washington”. I do agree although with the pie-in-the-sky, as I am not sure how will they be able to push through the idea. I think the “poorer” countries would see this as a direct attack on their independence. As the EU is bringing on more and more standards, the people of Eastern Europe are puzzled to see that things that worked until now are “outlawed”. Orban loves such a controversy as it feeds his nationalistic agenda. I for one also question if it is the right time for such a major political overhaul right now. Right time? No, it’s not: it’s way overdue. “Direct attack on their independence”–What the hell is that? ‘Independence’ for what?–Poverty? Or to be controlled by a small country’s mafia clique? Have a peek at Bulgaria and see how they’re managing against the criminal element within… Any politician wishing for the betterment of his citizens will sign up pronto.… Read more »
oneill
Guest

Orban may have 99 problems but the threat of an federal Europe isn’t one; in fact even the idea couldn’t have come at a better time for him. Hard to get his geriatric barmy army out for another march for freedom over the freeing of an axe-murder or over his “yes”, “no”, “maybe” fight with the IMF. But good old Barrosso has come to the rescue just in the nick of time.

And as far Barrosso’s warning finger at the two Viktors, yeah right. It’s worked really well so far at keeping them in line with democratic norms.

petofi
Guest

oneill :
Orban may have 99 problems but the threat of an federal Europe isn’t one; in fact even the idea couldn’t have come at a better time for him. Hard to get his geriatric barmy army out for another march for freedom over the freeing of an axe-murder or over his “yes”, “no”, “maybe” fight with the IMF. But good old Barrosso has come to the rescue just in the nick of time.
And as far Barrosso’s warning finger at the two Viktors, yeah right. It’s worked really well so far at keeping them in line with democratic norms.

@ Oneill,

As you well know, one of the things about a country sporting ‘democratic norms’ is that their leaders be ‘adults’ not the spoiled, thieving, ranting children that Orban and his gang have proven to be.

oneill
Guest

petofi,

I was pointing out the complete impotency of the EU when faced with spoiled, thieving, ranting and indeed lying children like Orban.

Peter Haley Dunne
Guest

Some of the writings – or rantings – above seem to ignore that Hungary is a country lived in by many foreigners (EU citizens, Americans, Chinese, Africans) as well as Mr Orban and the Hungarians. I have neen living here for twenty years and have no regrets.

My fear about the Euro is that I consider it an expensive currency. I can fill my shopping bag at the market for one thousand forints or less. (Approx 4 euros). A cup of “hosszü kavé” (long or big coffee) can cost me 250 forint or 350. That’s one euro or a bit more.

I used to live in Paris. A restaurant that used to do a midday meal for 22 francs offered the same meal for 22 euros after the euro came in. Big deal.

OK. I judge everything by the price of drinks and food. But I am an Irishman. What would you expect?

Peter, Budapest.

Member
Some1 I for one also question if it is the right time for such a major political overhaul right now. Right time? No, it’s not: it’s way overdue. “Direct attack on their independence”–What the hell is that? ‘Independence’ for what?–Poverty? Or to be controlled by a small country’s mafia clique? Have a peek at Bulgaria and see how they’re managing against the criminal element within… Any politician wishing for the betterment of his citizens will sign up pronto. Anyone fighting it is using rhetoric to hide his criminality. I meant to say “economical overhaul right now” . I question that driving through all those changes at once is the best interest of the EU. If they want all the economical changes, they will loose ground on the accountability changes, as all the corrupt governments will introduce the demands as an attack on small farmers, employment, etc. Look what Orban is saying about the IMF demands. Now, he will say that the political changes are needed to the EU, so they can take control and do what they want with our poor country. I think the EU should shape up how to deal with elements like Orban first and then deal… Read more »
Member
Peter Haley Dunne : Some of the writings – or rantings – above seem to ignore that Hungary is a country lived in by many foreigners (EU citizens, Americans, Chinese, Africans) as well as Mr Orban and the Hungarians. I have neen living here for twenty years and have no regrets. My fear about the Euro is that I consider it an expensive currency. I can fill my shopping bag at the market for one thousand forints or less. (Approx 4 euros). A cup of “hosszü kavé” (long or big coffee) can cost me 250 forint or 350. That’s one euro or a bit more. I used to live in Paris. A restaurant that used to do a midday meal for 22 francs offered the same meal for 22 euros after the euro came in. Big deal. OK. I judge everything by the price of drinks and food. But I am an Irishman. What would you expect? Peter, Budapest. Hi Peter, Can I assume that you are retired in Hungary or you working for a foreign firm? ARe you middle management, blue collar or red collar worker? I am also not sure what do you mean to say with that… Read more »
Peter Haley Dunne
Guest

Some 1. You are right. I’m retired. But I didnt come to Budapest to retire. I did ten years work here as a teacher, all taxes and cpntributions paid, and then retired, helped in part by a nice refund from the tax office. In all my time here I have followed the cultural scene, both serious and light, and for social life I tried hanging out with Hungarians at local bars, not the “expat” bars.. Peter

Guest

I’m also a foreigner living in Hungary (at least part time) but I can’t say that food (in the supermarkets !!! is really cheaper than in Germany e g. And of course electronics and other hardware are generally more expensive, first because of the higher AFA and second because there is less competition.

Only restaurants and bars and some other services are way cheaper – because the wages are much lower …

Just today I had to go the Opel service shop and saw a new sign: One hour of work 7 500 HUF + AFA – in Germany that would at least be twice the amount. Yesterday we had an electrician in the house for more than an hour – he asked for 3 000 Forint, which I happily gave him (of course without a receipt …). In Germany again you’d pay at least 20 € – just for the guy to appear and then 60 € per hour …

It’s really difficult to say what would happen with an economic union in the short run. Would wages rise fast or slowly ?

Peter Haley Dunne
Guest

Wolfi, I dont go to supermarkets but to the markets at Féhervari ut and across the river iat Fővám tér. They all know me there an know what I like to buy. Butt I know what I like to buy too! Yes, electricians dont usually give receipts, I accept it. Peter

Member

New topic:
Hungarians learned today, September 14, 2012 that Orban introduced a kind of draft & other sinister things on January 1, 2012 hidden in an anti-catastrophe bill and he also elevated the bill into the “Basic Law” that replaced the constitution.

See: http://nol.hu/belfold/mindenkit_besoroznak_polgari_vedelmi_szolgalatra_

Read the official text of the bill at http://www.kozlonyok.hu/nkonline/MKPDF/hiteles/mk11113.pdf

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Actually, there are few foreigners living in Hungary. I don’t think the 2011 census data is already available, yet Eurostat’s figures for 2010 were 200,000, or 2% of the total population (36% of which are Romanians, 20% Germans). It’s half the rate observed in the Czech Republic, and of course can hardly be compared with the rates observed in Western Europe.

magy magy
Guest

Our exercise in ranting should follow the rules of the quantum mechanics.

Endless ranting leads to a quantum leap in constructive liberal thinking and national conscience.

The primitive Viktor politics exploits the existence of the indifferent constantly unhappy Super-Hungarians.

What is the happiness level of the Orban followers? Under zero, even negative.

What is the hatred level of the Orban followers? Close to 100%. Maybe 110%.

What was the national euphoria level under Ferenc Deak? Close to 100%.

Our ranting is the most positive sport in the times of law-shredding by the Viktors.

Kirsten
Guest

some1: “I think the EU should shape up how to deal with elements like Orban first and then deal with all the other issues.”

European reality is quite different from that. The problems with an autocrat in one country, elected in free elections and still supported (apparently) by a sufficiently large number of Hungarians, while those Hungarians who are not satisfied with OV use the European institutions in support of their rights to a very small extent, so these problems are definitely less important than the pressures on the Spanish/Irish etc. banking sectors or the public finances of a number of larger member states. The “European” option has been supported quite recently by the Dutch voters, a founding nation of the EU / the European Communities. New member states who “cannot behave” in the interpretation of the “old member states” are really less relevant than economic stability issues that affect a number of the member states. It is a problem, no doubt, and seen as such, but it is not more important than the troubles in the larger or older member states. The EU has not been created primarily to remedy what the Hungarian voter has let himself in for.

Member

Kirsten, I do agree at a certain extent, but the problem is that even if he would be supported by 80% of Hungarians, would that give him the right to nationalize private savings, to alone act without the parliament or his ministers approval and put the country into danger, to not step up in order to protect all of Hungary’s citizens, to disregard Hungary’s commitment to various international laws (human rights, Treaty of Trianon), and so forth. Let’s put it out flatly, would Hitler (and I do not for a moment say that Orban is Hitler) could start all over again in the EU because he is democratically elected?

petofi
Guest

magy magy :
Our exercise in ranting should follow the rules of the quantum mechanics.
Endless ranting leads to a quantum leap in constructive liberal thinking and national conscience.
The primitive Viktor politics exploits the existence of the indifferent constantly unhappy Super-Hungarians.
What is the happiness level of the Orban followers? Under zero, even negative.
What is the hatred level of the Orban followers? Close to 100%. Maybe 110%.
What was the national euphoria level under Ferenc Deak? Close to 100%.
Our ranting is the most positive sport in the times of law-shredding by the Viktors.

I couldn’t agree with you more.

And, nice to have some one explain exactly
why I’m continually in ranting heat mode now days.

Kirsten
Guest
some1:”could start all over again in the EU because he is democratically elected?” We are not at that point. OV is doing harm mainly to his own citizens. (And of those, a still too large part seems to think that he is actually defending Hungarian interests and sovereignty.) I think when he started to threaten his neighbours in any significant way, the international community would quickly act. “if he would be supported by 80% of Hungarians, would that give him the right to nationalize private savings” I believe this was legal in the sense that this was backed by the freely elected parliament. There is no other interpretation to the impression thas this case has not been dealt with in any court yet. “to alone act without the parliament” Most often the parliament gives its consent. some1, the Hungarian problem is as problematic as it is because Hungarians themselves make the impression that this is not that much of a problem. I was very impressed that judges from the Romanian Constitutional Court, before the decision about whether or not the referendum about President Basescu was lawful, told Brussels and the other Europeans openly that they are being threatened, to make… Read more »
cheshire cat
Guest
I’m surprised that people are wondering why now (the f word by Barroso). One of the reasons the eurozone has ended up in this crisis is that the monetary union wasn’t followed by fiscal, banking etc. union. One of the reasons the Commission is helpless with Orban is that politically they expected future member states to stick to democratic norms BEFORE they are allowed to join, but there were no monitoring or sanctioning mechanisms created for afterwards. All these (both crises) lead them to speed up on the route towards federation. In fact, analysts and experts have be urging them to do so for quite a while now. Of course all of this will be diluted and modified as member states start to fight for their interests – but it is going to be a BIG change. That’s why it’s important that Barroso said: we will not wait for the most reluctant member states to dictate the speed. Anyone outside the euro can join but nobody will be forced – which means you either hop on and keep the rules or you don’t come along. What worries me is that – as Kirsten explains very well – at this crucial… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

my own “OV is doing harm mainly to his own citizens.” to some1. Hitler first also did harm only to his own compatriots, so probably this has to be made more precise. OV has managed to rebuild the political system without any life lost and without open violence. Ferenc Gyurcsany is still a free man etc.

Peter
Guest

Gyurcsany is a free man but the DK has not been recognized by the National Assembly as a valid party that can fight in the next election. Only existing parties are recognized. The MSZP and LMP are recognised, Jobbik is recohnized, but Gyurcsany sill have a struggle to get his new party recognised.

If I am wrong I will be very happy to be corrected.
Peter.

Member
Kirsten : “to alone act without the parliament” Most often the parliament gives its consent. I was referring to the release of the axe murderer. some1, the Hungarian problem is as problematic as it is because Hungarians themselves make the impression that this is not that much of a problem. I was very impressed that judges from the Romanian Constitutional Court, before the decision about whether or not the referendum about President Basescu was lawful, told Brussels and the other Europeans openly that they are being threatened, to make the “correct” decision. That has opened some room for the Commission to put pressure on Viktor Ponta and his clan. I agree with you o this 100%. Isn’t this sad? And as regards the type of reforms now most urgent for the EU, European integration has proceeded (or has had to proceed) mainly through economic issues – because these were most easily identified as being beneficial for the member states. In political matters, integration is much slower and for some people fully unacceptable (because of the “loss of sovereignty”). Yes, but I think this should be done with those countries who are on board. You have to define, what qualifies a… Read more »
Member

Kirsten :
my own “OV is doing harm mainly to his own citizens.” to some1. Hitler first also did harm only to his own compatriots, so probably this has to be made more precise. OV has managed to rebuild the political system without any life lost and without open violence. Ferenc Gyurcsany is still a free man etc.

I honestly do not know how far would he go to remain in power at this time…. We are not there yet, but he mentioned the “alternative to democracy”.

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