Monitoring versus “close scrutiny” of Hungary in PACE

There is a recent event I didn’t comment on: the decision of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) not to place Hungary under official monitoring. Instead it promised “to follow closely the Hungarian developments.” The provisional version of the resolution can be read on the official website of the Council of Europe (CoE).

Magnifying glass -

Magnifying glass –

A couple of days ago Mátyás Eörsi, a former member of PACE, wrote an analysis for Galamus entitled “The Anatomy of a Vote.” Eörsi became a member of PACE in 1994 and eventually came to be the leader of The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group. In March 2009 the Hungarian government nominated him for the position of Secretary General of the Council of Europe. He knows the workings of the Council of Europe inside out.

According to Eörsi, who still has many friends in PACE, the attitude of the European People Party’s members of PACE is more forgiving toward Fidesz than is that of the members of the EPP caucus in the European Parliament. One reason is that PACE holds full assemblies only four times a year, a week at a time. Thus, these members didn’t have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the behavior of Viktor Orbán’s government as thoroughly as the Christian Democratic members of the European Parliament did. The Conservatives (British, Russian, and Turkish) also stood by Fidesz. That the members of Putin’s party supported the Hungarian government’s case is perfectly understandable. After all, Viktor Orbán’s governing style is often compared to Putin’s. As for Tayyip Erdoğan, perhaps Zsolt Németh’s praise of Erdoğan and Turkish democracy makes more sense after the PACE vote. It may have been a gesture that was intended to be repaid by Turkish votes in the Council of Europe.

In the end, the whole Russian delegation, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and practically all other countries in East-Central Europe voted against monitoring. Since most of the countries are already under monitoring themselves, they had no desire to add Hungary to the list. In fact, what they would like to do is to abolish the whole system of  monitoring.

There were 22 amendments to the original resolution, most of which were designed to weaken it. The majority were submitted by Fidesz members. As soon as voting in the assembly began, pro-Fidesz votes poured in. According to Eörsi, the running tally was something like 170:80. But then something happened. Half way through the voting  the pattern changed radically. How could that have been possible, Eörsi asks.

We are all familiar with the parliamentary practice of voting strictly along party lines. The whip calls the shots and the members of the caucus listen to the instructions. This is also how the European Parliament functions, but in PACE the situation is somewhat different. PACE members usually vote according to the suggestions of the particular committee that prepared the proposal. In this case, the Monitoring Committee. Eörsi found out what happened in committee. At the beginning of the committee meeting the whole EPP contingent was present while a couple of socialist members were late. The first amendments were therefore voted in by the EPP majority. But then the missing socialist members arrived and suddenly there was a socialist majority. The second half of the amendments was voted down. Then came the final vote and a socialist member, the British John Prescott, earlier deputy of Tony Blair, forgot to raise his hand. The EPP members voted the proposal down.

If Eörsi’s information is correct, one can see how decisions can be reached due to happenstance. One person being late and another  forgetting to raise his hand. This particular vote is a relatively small setback for those who would have liked to see Hungary placed under monitoring, but it still counts as a victory for Viktor Orbán and Fidesz. One can take only slight comfort in looking through the list of supporters and saying that Viktor Orbán cannot be very proud of the company he found himself in. Then again….

I understand that the Hungarian government as well as the Fidesz members of PACE did extensive lobbying to avoid monitoring by the Council of Europe. It is hard to tell how effective this lobbying was, especially if Eörsi is right and voting by the members of PACE tends to follow specific committee recommendations. Of course, this wouldn’t be applicable to those countries whose members unanimously rejected the resolution, like Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine, etc. They supported the Orbán government because of their own political interests.

More important than the PACE vote will be the fate of the Tavares report in the European Parliament. The vote will take place in Strasbourg on July 2. Viktor Orbán will be there to argue his case. We will see how persuasive he is.

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Surprisingly, too many Hungarians did not understand that the Orban basic garbage had one objective, namely the solidification of the Orban ruling.
The rest will lose its freedom.
So simple, but all the smart words from the press and the Princeton based Scheppele could not penetrate the Hungarian public opinion.
It is now the task of philosophers and writers to make it clear.
A good drama, titled Hungarian Freedom Above All….could make the trick.
Who read the Eric Knight bestseller, This Above All?


So Fidesz won the vote because John ‘two Jags’ Prescott forgot to but his hand up. That’s so funny. He probably fell as sleep after a heavy lunch. The British press christened him ‘two Jags’ after it was reveiled this working class hero had two Jaguar cars. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)

According to the documents available it worked the other way round. Since the report was advocating monitoring, monitoring had to be voted out the resolution.

Amendment number 2 – the amendment against monitoring – was indeed the last one, but it was adopted by 151 votes for / 95 against / 6 abstentions. The PPE + GDE votes only wouldn’t have been enough for a majority, and 10 Liberals, 18 Socialists and 18 unaffiliated members also voted for it.

Considering only the PACE members from EU countries, PPE + GDE votes alone wouldn’t have been enough either, even if all their Polish and Swedish members had voted against monitoring (which they didn’t).

Amendment number 2 :

The votes :


Meanwhile on Planet Hungary …

Hostile takeover, Hungarian style.

Szalkszentmárton, Planet Hungary. Population 2900. Some 40 miles north of BP.

There will be two “national tobacco shops” in the village. The permits were issued to a local couple. Yes, no kidding. One for the wifey one for husband. And get this. They will open the stores in the same building next to each other:

I hope their marriage will survive the fierce competition …

OT Although this is not directly about Fidesz or Jobbik, but certainly it is about the attitude that the encouragement and embracement of nationalistic ideas will bring on. The clown mayor of Erpatak on the attached video speaks about the importance of Hungarian values to 8-10 years old students. Hungarian values include (not only the lovely outfit he wore), but other things” “It is very important that everyone for those who live on this land to love this nation. If someone has a problem in Hungary, when they have a problem and go to a Hungarian doctor to ask for help to heal, they owe this nation to respect its tradition. If something is wrong and they call a Hungarian police officer, then they have a duty to love the Hungarian traditions. Nothing is mandatory, but this is an expectation between and around us. The big problem is that the filthy liberals are trying to weaning us off. However, we have decided that here we we will re-accustume the people, the people who live on the land of Hungary to love the heritage of our ancestors, to love our traditions and duly respect it. There is a choice. Those who… Read more »

Eva S. Balogh :
“Mutt, You always steal my ideas. I actually copied the picture because it is so funny. If I manage I will copy it for you all.

I saw it too, but was worried that it is just a photoshopped picture. I cannot imagine that Fidesz would be this stupid, but you never know.

Oh, and on my post regarding the mayor. My translation truly tried to follow what he was saying, so maybe it does not make sense here and there.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)

Eva S. Balogh :
To tell you the truth I didn’t check the assembly records. However, I listened to an interview in Bolgár’s program with someone who was present. He pretty well confirmed Eörsi’s version although he himself couldn’t give any details being one of the members of the assembly. If you are interested here is the link:

Thanks for the link. Fortunately the assembly documents, including the session transcript, are publicly available – so we don’t have to petition the NSA to get them. 🙂

Of course, the PACE and the EP are different stages, but the PACE vote showed very little division among EPP members (except for the Swedes and the Poles). That, plus dissent among the Socialist and ADLE groups, isn’t a good omen for the EP vote.