Last week, the Hungarian Permanent Representation in Brussels invited Hungarian politicians from the European Parliament to a joint meeting with the Hungarian Head of State Katalin Novák, who is currently on a visit to Brussels, to discuss the Hungarian Presidency of the EU next year. I was the only opposition MEP to accept the invitation, because I am determined to represent the other voice of Hungary wherever I can.
In fact, ever since I have been a politician, I have always strived to have certain national minimums that we can agree on during the breaks in the political arm-wrestling that we do on a daily basis – and that I, for example, as a fierce opponent of the current NER regime, have practiced. I did not go to the meeting to make a gesture, as I remain firmly of the view that the anti-European policy of the current government is an unforgivable crime and that the early fall of the current Fidesz regime is in the clear interest of the entire Hungarian nation. Of course, this is precisely why we did not agree at the presidential meeting, which was unusually normal by domestic standards and free of downright hostility, but happy is the country where such exchanges of views are commonplace and natural.
As there was no official recording or transcript of the meeting, I would just like to emphasise in telegraph style that in my speech I drew the attention of the President of the Republic to the fact that in the interest of the country he must sing out of the Fidesz choir at her meetings in Brussels, and that she cannot reiterate and continue the unjustifiably and inconsistently confrontational anti-EU policy based on lies, which the NER centre conducts.
I stressed that during the Hungarian Presidency of the EU next year, our shared country must show its better face, and therefore it is our joint responsibility to provide a compromise-seeking, constructive programme, at least in these few months, instead of a policy that destroys the European Community. At the meeting, Head of State Katalin Novák made it clear that if she has criticisms of the government’s political line, she will voice them at home in the appropriate forums and places, but that she will not represent anything different from what the current cabinet does in public. Straightforward talk, clear position, even if I think it is opportunistic and contrary to a true representation of the unity of the nation.
As for the Hungarian Presidency of the EU, we will have the honour of leading the EU during both a priority and a transitional period, with Budapest temporarily becoming the EU’s capital between 1 July and the end of December next year. A priority period, because we in Hungary will be shortly after the EP elections, i.e. the leadership will be in Hungarian hands at the very time when the new Parliament and the new Commission will be taking shape, political deals will be finalised and the new balance of power will be established. It is interesting to note that it is precisely for this reason that the Hungarian presidency may also be overshadowed by the shadow of weightlessness, since the possible prolongation of the negotiations on the formation of the European Commission and the internal tug-of-war over the positions of the parliamentary groups, which will certainly be transformed compared to their current state, will all take up time and draw away attention.
In practice, the haggling will bring legislative work to a standstill for months. The European Commission, which is still in office, is no longer prepared to undertake any major new legislation, so the Hungarian Council Presidency will have two dossiers to negotiate. On the one hand, there are issues which were not important at all, as the Spanish and Belgian Presidencies have already tried to close them before the EP elections. On the other hand, there are also cold cases which have been frozen for months or even years and which, precisely because of their sensitivity/difficulty, will almost certainly not be successfully concluded at that time. This is not a very promising situation, which is why the opportunity should be used for something else.
In fact, there has recently been a rather strong and critical unity formed in the current EP against the Hungarian presidency, saying that it is difficult to justify a national government that violates common European values and rules in every possible way playing a leading role in this community, even if it does so only symbolically, with hollowed-out content.
This summer, the European Parliament adopted a report summarising the results of the rule of law procedure on the freezing of EU funds owed to Hungary and the criminal actions of the Hungarian Government. In it was an item that was phrased – and simplified by Fidesz’s reality benders to mean that the conspiring left-liberal-Sorosist-genderist conspiracy of MEPs would take the EU presidency away from Hungary – that the rule of law crimes committed by the Fidesz government „raise the question of how Hungary will be able to credibly fulfil this task in 2024, given its failure to comply with EU law” and the values enshrined in the EU treaties, „as well as the principle of loyal cooperation”. And indeed, it is a perfectly valid point, since even criminals are more likely to be banned from public office than appointed presidents of courts, especially in the middle of a criminal trial. Isn’t that right?
I voted for this report because – despite the fact that I consider the success of the Hungarian EU Presidency to be important – I wanted to send a warning to Orbán that they urgently need to change their arrogant, anti-EU attitude in the interests of the entire Hungarian nation. I maintain that next year’s Hungarian presidency can (should) be a turning point, an important demonstration that Hungary is not equal to the NER elite, is not equal to the Orbán cabinet’s insane policies and that even Fidesz is capable of self-reflection when it wants to be. Yes, I know, I too have strong doubts about their possible intention to do so, but the opportunity is still there and should be taken.
For now, all we know about the Fidesz government’s plans is that they intend to continue to address the priorities started by the Spanish and Belgian presidencies, such as developing the EU’s economy and competitiveness, creating a greener and fairer Europe, strengthening the freedom and security of EU citizens and strengthening EU foreign policy, which is particularly important in the context of the wars that are around us.
Fidesz has already announced that, in addition to these issues, the Hungarian presidency will focus on competitiveness, the future of cohesion policy and demography, as well as migration. This would be all well and good, but the powers-that-be have once again not disappointed: Fidesz’s EP list leader (and candidate for Commissioner) Judit Varga recently made the ridiculous claim that the „top priority” of the Hungarian presidency will in fact be the rule of law and that they want to monitor the rule of law in the work of the EU institutions. How pathetic. All this coming from Judit Varga, who failed as Justice Minister because the unprecedented Pegasus-scandal cast too much shadow over her, as did the gross corruption of her deputy minister and her successive failures in EU negotiations.
If Fidesz really cares about the image of Hungary and our common homeland, it will put aside its brash political interests, stop using this period for its own power games and try to think of some kind of pan-European, pan-national programme for once. I propose that, in addition to the issues mentioned, they make health care, for example, a top priority, because although it is currently the exclusive responsibility of the Member States (and, as such, everything that happens in this sector is the exclusive responsibility of the government), it is time to review how, for example, uniform, minimum quality criteria can finally be set for the provision of care in EU Member States.
The European Health Union project is about this, among other things; if Fidesz really cares about health, it could, for example, make this its flagship issue. I would support it and help it. But it would not be a disadvantage either, of course, if the governing parties were to simply browse through last written EP programme, which was drawn up back in 2009 by serious experts – and since then, obviously not by chance, they have been relegated to the backbench in Fidesz – such as János Martonyi. The pro-European commitments they made in it could easily be the cornerstone of the Hungarian Presidency. It is a pity that they have since denied every line in it.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament / Founder of the Community of Chance (Esély Közösség)