Monitoring and an infringement procedure seem the likely fate of Hungary

There are signs that Strasbourg and Brussels have decided to change gears and speed up the slow moving vehicles of the Council of Europe and the European Union.

It was Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland of the Council of Europe who was the first to indicate on Monday that the latest amendments to the Fourth Amendment to the Hungarian  Constitution are an inadequate answer to the most recent objections of the Council and the European Commission. In an interview with the German liberal paper, Der Tagelsspiegel, he indicated that as far as political advertisement is concerned, Hungary’s attempt to make a distinction between European and national elections is unacceptable. From the interview it also became evident that German President Joachim Gauck, who visited the Council of Europe the other day, shared his own worries about the Hungarian situation with Jagland. Still, I must say that Mr. Jagland is naive if he thinks that because Klubrádió managed to retain its frequency all is well on the media front, that “the freedom of expression is now assured and the press can work without any hindrance.” 

Council of Europe2

A couple of words first about the Council of Europe; even the Council’s website admits that there is a lot of confusion about the Council and its relationship to the European Union. The Council came into being in 1949 with a membership of ten countries, but by now it covers virtually the entire European continent (47 members). The Council of Europe “seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.” If in a member state questions about democracy, the rule of law, or a violation of human rights surface, the Council of Europe may set up either a temporary or a permanent monitoring mechanism. Until now such monitoring procedures were applied only in countries formerly belonging to the Soviet Union and in some countries in the Balkans. Now it seems that the so-called monitoring committee suggested bringing to a vote in the parliament of the Council of Europe whether Orbán Viktor’s Hungary should be monitored.

The vote in the committee was very close. The decision to move forward passed by a single vote, mostly because the members of the European People’s Party to which Fidesz belongs decided to vote against the resolution en bloc. The final word naturally lies with the parliament as a whole. The vote will take place sometime in June, about the same time that the Venice Commission’s final report is released. I should add that the Venice Commission, which is composed of constitutional and international law experts, is an independent advisory body to the Council of Europe.

Meanwhile the European Commission’s own legal team has also been busy, and EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said this morning that the legal analysis “will lead, probably, to infringement procedures and this will happen rather quickly.” She also indicated that she had already written to Budapest that a preliminary analysis raised questions about the rule of law in Hungary.

We often talk about infringement procedures, but I suspect that we don’t fully understand what they entail. Since the European Commission seems to be fairly certain that the legal changes in Hungary warrant such a move, it is time to get familiar with the details. Each member state is responsible for the implementation of EU law within its own legal system; it is the European Commission that is responsible for ensuring that EU law is correctly applied. If a member state fails to comply, the Commission has “powers of  its own to try to bring the infringement to an end and, where necessary, they refer the case to the European Court of Justice.” First, a letter of formal notice is presented to the member state in which the Commission asks the member state to comply within a given time limit. If the member state fails to comply, the Commission will refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

All in all, although by Brussels standards these procedures are taking less time than usual, it will be a long time before they bear fruit, if at all. Moreover, Orbán still has many tricks up his sleeve. Just wait until Brussels takes a good look at the electoral law. After all, the text of the law is now available in the Magyar Közlöny. There will be many unpleasant surprises there, I’m sure.

Let me shift topics to end on a more humorous note. Actually, just like everything else in Orbán’s Hungary, it has its tragic elements.

www.diosdifidesz.hu

www.diosdifidesz.hu

I’m sure that you all remember that the Fidesz ideologues have been targeting street names they consider to be ideologically unacceptable. Not surprisingly, the forbidden names are practically all connected with the left. At least I didn’t see Miklós Horthy or Adolf Hitler on the list. To the everlasting shame of the Historical Institute attached to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, it accepted the odious task of determining whose name can be used and whose cannot. Here is the list.

Good beginning: Alkotmány (Constitution), decision: usable. Reason: although its use as a street name became frequent during the socialist period it cannot be forbidden because then we would have to consider the word “constitution” directly connected to dictatorship. Moreover, in this case the name of the Alkotmánybíróság (Constitutional Court) would also have to be to be changed. 🙂

The learned historians decided that the word “Fejlődés” which means “development” is OK even though it was also used during the socialist period. “Liberation” (Felszabadulás) is out, but  “Haladás” (Progress) and “Győzelem (Victory) are acceptable. I was also happy to hear that Attila József, Hungary’s greatest poet, can have a street or square of his own although he was at one point a member of the illegal communist party in the 1930s.

“Köztársaság” (Republic) is still allowed. But “Partisan” is out. And Mihály Károlyi is definitely out. After all, they consider him responsible for Trianon, a real falsification of history. György Lukács is on the forbidden list even though he was a member of the Imre Nagy government in 1956 and consequently narrowly avoided execution. Writers and poets are not spared either: Maxim Gorky and Vladimir Mayakovski are blacklisted. Karl Marx is “usable but worrisome” (használható, de aggályos).  May 1 is OK. I was relieved to hear that the great Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837) was spared! Nice to hear that “Szabadság” (Freedom) is not yet banned but let’s just wait! I might add that several social democratic politicians active before World War II are also banned.

A real testament to democracy in action!

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Member

Here is a real conundrum for the street name nazis:

http://on.fb.me/12IMRNq

(The intersection of the sickle and hammer streets).

Tintoretto
Guest
What I am curious about is: on what basis will these infringment procedures rest? Infringement procedures, involving warnings by the European Commission and the potential involvement of the European Court of Justice in case of persistent non-compliance, can only be started where the EU has legal competence. And indeed, the EU (and thus the European Court of Justice) has no competence in issues of institutional design, human rights or the rule of law, UNLESS these are very closely connected to the common market and economic freedoms in general (sigh.. so for instance there was a lot of fuss over the independence of the Hungarian Central Bank, which the EU has competence over, and not at all over the new possibility of criminalizing the opposition, which the EU has no competence over) This seems to be the whole problem: conditionality pre EU accession allows to set political and democratic criteria that the EU has little power to enforce post-accession (excluding article 7… which demands a political will that seems insufficient at best in the present case), based on the brilliant (!) idea that democratization of course is non-reversible. Also, member states generally maintain the illusion that their constitutional law is superior… Read more »
ZulejkaamI
Guest
Don’t trust in the EU. They are hopeless. Orbán is winning, he is stronger than ever. And now he finishes MSZP with the Laborc-tape. In a HVG.hu article top MSZP sources didn’t understand why the tape only was used now and not earlier. It is obvious, but it also shows these guys at MSZP are amateurs and hopeless too. Fidesz will not use an instrument when it is very popular and the oppositition is very unpopular, because it could have no consequences, it would not change the arithmetics. When MSZP is starting to increase its popularity, in however small increments, then it is time to go against them. MSZP would first need an image campaign (like in 2005 with the modern-design red squares) as MSZP voters are not proud to be associated with MSZP, it is not a cool party. But Fidesz undercuts that campaign, well it has not even started, when starting and carrying out this mafia-mszp relationship story. It is exactly the best time to do it, because dropping it just before the elections you cannot really know what consequences a story like this causes, too risky. Now you drop it and manage it for a next couple… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Muslim Brotherhood copies a page or two from Fidesz’s script:

“One [bill], proposed by Morsi’s Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, drops the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60, which would affect nearly a quarter of Egypt’s 13,000 judges and prosecution officials.

The draft also would forbid the courts from reviewing or overturning presidential decrees issued by Morsi late last year, including his appointment of a new top prosecutor. The prosecutor remains in place despite a court order last month annulling his appointment.”

http://news.yahoo.com/egypt-proceeds-judiciary-law-despite-uproar-200547997.html

Congruency Conundrum
Guest

I think the monitoring option is the best way to handle this before touching upon sanctions or worse, the nuclear option. The latter would only punish Hungary as a whole, and it’s clearly a government/Fidesz issue (to state the obvious).

I have a semi on-topic question. Is Hungary becoming more feral?

I’m not referring to the squabble between political camps rather the average Hungarian that is not really interested in the political mess at present. To me it would be a bit of a worry if a younger generation of Hungarians adopt the attitude that complete incompetence and pathological lying is the new norm as long as you reflect full on narcissism. This will simply not fly in other parts of the world unless you’re looking at non- or semi-democratic countries.

JGrant
Guest
Apologies for being off topic, but I have had the warning from Facebook again that this site is not safe. I went back and read the subsequent comments after my warning a couple of days ago and while Prof. Balogh’s misreading of FB to FBI was amusing, I still think that there is an attack on the go. Somebody in that string of comments suggested that the trouble might be with wordpress and that may be the case, but I am wondering why? WordPress is a reputable, reliable facility that is used worldwide, so I doubt if Facebook would think bad of it. THe case I mentioned in my original comment was that I have heard of cases like this before. Some extreme right wing website reported a Facebook account as racist and Facebook immediately suspended that account ostensibly ‘under investigation’. AS they do not have the resources or even the inclination to investigate, nothing happened, the account holder had no chance of clearing his name and finally the account was cancelled. That is a very clever way of dealing with your political opponents and I am only surprised they have not done it more often since then. That is… Read more »
Koen
Guest

Interesting list… Also remarkable to find Proházka on the list of “usable”. For more info I recommend Paul A. Hanebrink, “In defense of Christian Hungary. Religion, nationalism and antisemitism, 1890-1944”
Thanks

tappanch
Guest

Admitting the obvious:

the “Peace Marchers” [ Civil Összefogás Közhasznú Alapítvány (CÖKA) ] are financed, at least 86% by Fidesz

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130425_Tenyleg_Fideszalapitvany_penzeli_a_bekem

Tyrker
Guest

I didn’t see Miklós Horthy or Adolf Hitler on the list

I guess that’s because no municipality has asked for the Academy’s opinion on them.

Matt_L
Guest

Eva, did they say who was in charge of this pointless little exercise in Political Correctness over at the History Institute? or is the committee to remain nameless? (its so inane, this had to be done by committee)

Member

Matt_L :
Eva, did they say who was in charge of this pointless little exercise in Political Correctness over at the History Institute? or is the committee to remain nameless? (its so inane, this had to be done by committee)

Member

tappanch :

Matt_L :
Eva, did they say who was in charge of this pointless little exercise in Political Correctness over at the History Institute? or is the committee to remain nameless? (its so inane, this had to be done by committee)

for the 3 members of the committee, see my remark yesterday.

tappanch
Guest

for detailed stories about who got tobacco permits & related corruption, see

http://trafikmutyi.cafeblog.hu/

Tyrker
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Tyrker :
I guess that’s because no municipality has asked for the Academy’s opinion on them.

Sure, they were interested only in the left. And, it seems, someone or someones were ignorant enough to inquire about Pushkin!

Indeed. And about “Freedom/Liberty,” “Peace” and “Plan,” among others 🙂

tappanch
Guest

Zsolt Csaszy plans to sue the committee, because one of his relatives from a century ago was also banished as a public street name. The relative was a member of a local council (“direktorium”) and was executed by the occupying Romanian troops in 1919.

He says if the name of his relative is banned, then the committee should also ban the composers Bartók & Kodály, or writers/artists Kassák, Babits & Móricz, since they were also supporters of the Commune in 1919 and members of a direktorium.

http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=640376

JGrant
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I went to the Hungarian Spectrum timeline and clicked on several posts. I had no problems. Where did you try to access the site from?

Directly from Facebook. It is no problem for me, because I can just simply go straight to your blog and then it is OK, as you yourself have found. It is when coming from Facebook that it does that, so it is obviously something to do with Facebook. I have no idea what we can do about it, but perhaps some of your followers have an idea about what – iif anything – can be done. That is the reason I raised it. By the way, I am deliberately coming to your blog now via Facebook every time, hoping that if I click on NOT SPAM enough times they will stop giving out the warning.

JGrant
Guest

tappanch :
Zsolt Csaszy plans to sue the committee, because one of his relatives from a century ago was also banished as a public street name. The relative was a member of a local council (“direktorium”) and was executed by the occupying Romanian troops in 1919.
He says if the name of his relative is banned, then the committee should also ban the composers Bartók & Kodály, or writers/artists Kassák, Babits & Móricz, since they were also supporters of the Commune in 1919 and members of a direktorium.
http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=640376

@tappanch – for God’s sake do not give them ideas, as I wouldn’t put it past them to ban all those mentioned by you above! 🙂

JGrant
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I went to the Hungarian Spectrum timeline and clicked on several posts. I had no problems. Where did you try to access the site from?

Dear Prof. Balogh – I did the same as you suggested above, went to the Timeline of your Facebook page and it still gave me the warning. The fact that you have not got it yourself would probably have something to do with the fact that they would know that it is you who is accessing your own blog via Facebook.

An
Guest

@JGrant: Hmm.. I got no warning whatsoever when I went on the timeline of the Hungarian Spectrum on FB. One interesting glitch, though… on the about page on FB, the link to this blog (it’s a link to the old typepad version of the blog) needs an update. It currently goes to a psychology blog in Hebrew (?).

enuff
Guest

JGrant :

Eva S. Balogh :
I went to the Hungarian Spectrum timeline and clicked on several posts. I had no problems. Where did you try to access the site from?

Directly from Facebook. It is no problem for me, because I can just simply go straight to your blog and then it is OK, as you yourself have found. It is when coming from Facebook that it does that, so it is obviously something to do with Facebook. I have no idea what we can do about it, but perhaps some of your followers have an idea about what – iif anything – can be done. That is the reason I raised it. By the way, I am deliberately coming to your blog now via Facebook every time, hoping that if I click on NOT SPAM enough times they will stop giving out the warning.

Ok, today I visited a blog hosted by Blogger, a fashion blog to be specific, same warning. I think FB is doing routine feedback??

tappanch
Guest
hallo
Guest

The FIDESZ rule is working in Hungary.
The 1/4 of the Hungarian population has taken the bait.
The support is a combination of sentimental yearning for tradition and of economic interest.
After FIDESZ, there will be a vacuum.
A Western European adjustment will have to wait.

tappanch
Guest

Klubradio just won a second frequency in Budapest (a free one to boot) in the Court of Appeal.

http://www.klubradio.hu/cikk.php?id=16&cid=156251

Let us see what kind of legal nonsense the Media Authority & Fidesz will invent this time.

Turing Consciousness
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I can only suggest that many of you should try to access HS from FB and we will see what happens. The Hebrew is suspicious.

Stevan Harnad here (from another FB account).

It worked for me, but maybe because it’s from the same IP as my usual account…

Worth pursuing because it does sound as sound like cybertricks…

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