Hungarian Socialists oppose EU punitive action against Orbán government

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe are pushing for the European Union to invoke the ominous Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty against Hungary, but the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) has spoken up strongly in opposition of this initiative. If invoked, Article 7 would temporarily suspend some of the country’s voting rights in the EU, as punishment for having systematically trampled upon the EU’s values of human dignity and solidarity, and for on-going human rights violations.

“How much further can the Orbán government go before the Commission and Council wake up? ALDE has been ringing the alarm bells about the Hungarian government for many years. Now the situation is spiralling out of control,” said Sophie In’ t Veld, First Vice President of the Liberal faction in the European Parliament. “Impunity is the nail in the coffin of the rule of law,” she added.

The Liberals, however, will have to contend with the fact that MSZP members of the Socialists & Democrats faction in the EP are getting ready to oppose this measure, widely seen as the “nuclear option” against a wayward government.

“They cannot punish an entire people for the irresponsibility of the country’s present political leadership,” said István Ujhelyi, on behalf of the Hungarian Socialist Party. “I think that it is tragic, that after five years the Orbán regime has brought us to a point, where the European club no longer wishes to provide financial aid, but would much rather see Hungary out the door,” added MSZP’s vice president.

“In modern medicine, there are procedures that only target and remove the cancerous cells,” noted Mr. Ujhelyi, suggesting that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government is a cancer in Europe, but one which must be treated with medication that does destroy healthy cells. Put simply: Article 7 would cause too much collateral damage to Hungary and Hungarian society, so MSZP can’t support any such initiative.

István Ujhelyi. Photo: Facebook.

István Ujhelyi. Photo: Facebook.

Mr. Ujhelyi added that he would like the European Commission to distribute among all EP factions a monitoring report into the state of democracy and constitutionalism in Hungary, prior to any possible vote on Article 7 in parliament.

The 40 year old MSZP politician is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 2014 and was first elected to the Hungarian parliament under the Socialist banner in 2002.

In order for Article 7 to be enacted against Hungary, it must be voted on by the EP or proposed by one third of all EU member states. A four fifths majority in Council is also necessary to begin this process. Article 7 allows for the suspension of a member state’s voting rights on Council. Realistically, even with MSZP’s support (if it were to change its mind), it is highly unlikely that Article 7 will be invoked against Hungary, in light of the Orbán government’s handling of the refugee crisis. The Union is deeply divided on this issue, with most Central/Eastern European states effectively supporting the hawkish views most forcefully expressed by the Fidesz government. As well, on October 25th, Poland looks set to elect a right-wing populist Law and Justice Party-led government, which will give Mr. Orbán a new, reliable and important ideological ally in the region.

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