The rule of law is not a bargaining chip – The Weekly 46

The European Union is often and rightfully criticized for being unable to get close to its citizens. Furthermore, the values that our community identifies with often seem rather abstract. As far as the institutions are concerned, such public sentiments should hardly be a surprise since the EU’s system is often based on overcomplicated and delicate balances between the institutions and the Member States. When it comes to values however, it’s harder to be quite so forgiving since no community can remain functional if its members are not connected by some ideological binding force that would guide them in the same direction. Of course, I did not become a politician to just lie idly by when I see processes and situations I am dissatisfied with.

On the contrary: I believe we must take action if are to make any progress. 

My view on the European Union’s situation is quite similar, too. There’s no way for such a large organization to change overnight, but we must constantly strive for improving on it each day even if the successes rather seem like half-measures at first. This week’s EP plenary session clearly proved it was up to us how much use we make of them.

When the EU’s seven-year budget and the economic recovery plan were passed last fall, many people were bitterly disappointed that the EU could only achieve no more than a half-success in terms of rule of law mechanisms. As we all remember, Hungary and Poland, for political reasons, kept blocking the EU budget and the recovery plan for months. Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, who had made corruption an essential part of his regime’s functionality and had been using the EU funds to build his own clientèle of oligarchs, was afraid that if EU funds were coupled with some closer monitoring in the upcoming period, he might be running out of funding before the spring of 2022, i.e., the next Hungarian parliamentary elections. He needs these funds to finance his “feudal” system whereby he uses local oligarchs, “businessmen” and corrupt officials to make sure that the necessary number of votes are delivered.

Eventually, Orbán’s conditions were not met: the rule of law criteria were activated as of 1st January, 2021. In a “typical European style” however, the Hungarian PM was still able to strike a deal and gain precious months by appealing to the European Court and thus keeping control of the funds until the elections.

Understandably, many people were bitterly disappointed to see the European Commission going against European citizens’ feeling of justice once again.

To make matters worse, the EC made a compromise with a government that is more and more widely considered as the trojan horse of some non-EU powers.

I believe that the European Parliament, which is directly elected by the citizens and therefore has the greatest legitimacy of all EU institutions, has a particularly important role in situations like this.

I was happy to see that we did not miss the opportunity and decided on Thursday evening that we are willing to take legal measures if the European Commission fails to immediately apply the rule of law criteria.

We must make it clear that the balance between the EU and the Member States cannot be used for stealing money from the citizens or disrupting the unity of Europe by certain governments. However, that’s exactly what the Orbán regime does.

I am glad that the European Parliament understood the significance of this situation and decided to take the initiative for a better Europe. I trust that the future will bring more and more issues that can be solved the same way. As a person committed to democratic values, I believe if the European Parliament’s role is more highly appreciated, the representation of European citizens will be more highly appreciated, too.

If we take the representation of European citizens seriously, we must declare that European values are not bargaining chips, with special regard to democracy, the freedom of speech and the respect for the rule of law. JOBBIK MEP - MÁRTON GYÖNGYÖSI The rule of law is not a bargaining chip – The Weekly 46 - Gyöngyösi Márton (