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EU Commission initiates ‘rule of law proceedings’ to punish Hungary

A coincidence? Immediately after the overwhelming electoral victory of the Hungarian governing party Fidesz, the EU stepped in to punish the winners with the last votes still being counted: Hungary will be the first country to face a dearth of EU funds.

Published: April 7, 2022, 9:58 am

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    Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s national-conservative Fidesz party won Sunday’s parliamentary elections by a surprisingly large margin. The fact that Orban is about to enter his fourth term, is clearly a thorn in the side of the left-liberal EU elites.

    EU Commission chief von der Leyen has announced that her authority would initiate the first step of the so-called rule of law mechanism. The EU Commission informed the Hungarian authorities about this measure on Tuesday. The EU will trigger a never-before-used mechanism aimed at cutting tens of billions of euros in funding. The Washington Post reported that Hungary had previously received 40 billion euros.

    In February, the European Court of Justice had already rejected complaints by Hungary and Poland against the rule of law mechanism. This has cleared the way for the EU Commission to proceed against the winners of this weekend’s election.

    The Hungarian Chancellery Minister Gergely Gulyas reacted promptly. The EU Commission is making a mistake, explained Gulyas. In the parliamentary elections on Sunday, the governing party Fidesz experienced “unprecedented support”. He added: “For this very reason, the commission should accept the basic rules of democracy and not serve the needs of the Hungarian left, who was defeated in the election.”

    Hungarian opposition losers blame media

    Hungarian opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay complained after his election defeat to Orban that it had been an “unequal fight” as he and other opposition politicians had been “banned” from state media.

    On Monday, German daily Die Welt published an interview  with him in order to create the impression that the Hungarian opposition hardly featured in the media there during the election campaign. It used an assertion by the election loser without comment to spread this view among German readers.

    Marki-Zay conceded defeat in the evening. “I will not hide my sadness and disappointment,” he told supporters. He accused the ruling party of conducting the election campaign with “hatred and lies”. It had been an “unequal fight” as he and other opposition politicians had been all but banned from the state media.

    This very serious claim could simply have been verified by any competent journalist in scrutinizing the media library of the state broadcaster Hirádo. During the election campaign and as well as before, opposition politicians were regularly invited to make statements. And they did so without defamatory interludes and other disparaging framing techniques which plagues for example German mainstream outlets.

    Thus, if there is an opposition which is really being suppressed, surveilled by domestic intelligence and regularly physically attacked, it is the German AfD. The party is generally shunned by state broadcasters which incidentally happen to be financed through compulsory contributions. Compared to the AfD, Hungarian politicians – especially those in the opposition – have easy access to the media.

    It is therefore quite the opposite of the mainstream’s claims that is true. But Brussels will persist with allegations of “corruption and democratic backsliding” against Hungary regardless.

    OSCE monitored the ballot

    The “undemocratic” result saw more than 200 international observers monitoring the vote along with thousands of volunteers from across the political spectrum with a turnout matching the record number of voters in the last national elections.

    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an intergovernmental organization, sent observers to monitor the poll, the second time in the European Union’s history that a full-scale monitoring operation on an EU member was launched. The New York Times made the utterly ridiculous claim that because Hungarian citizens could mail in their ballots if they did not have a residence in the country, this amounted to cheating.

    But mail-in ballots have not been the purported vote-multiplier for Orban either.

    The Hungarian Prime Minister responded to the move in Brussels by saying, “For them, the rule of law is a means by which they want to knead us into something that resembles them.”

    The election was essentially about the conflict in Ukraine

    On Sunday the Hungarian people made it clear at the ballot box that they were in favor of peace and opposed to Hungarian involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. Even mainstream observers had to admit that Prime Minister Orban’s commitment to neutrality and peace gave him a record approval rating that many polling institutes did not think was possible. And that did not sit well with Ukraine either – it called on the neighboring country to clearly take sides against Russia.

    The Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, currently engaged in non-stop bellicose rhetoric, prompted Hungary to summon their Ukrainian ambassador, Lyubov Nepop. A summons is a medium-severe sanction, which is usually intended to signal a major upset.

    The reason for this action is apparently that Ukrainian President Zelensky has tried several times in recent days to draw Orban into the conflict. Even though Hungary is a member of the EU and NATO, Hungary’s prime minister has refused from the outset to allow NATO’s arms shipments through his country. “No Hungarian should get caught between a Ukrainian anvil and a Russian hammer. It is not in our interest to become casualties in other countries’ wars as foot soldiers.”

    But according to Zelensky, Orban has to “decide between Russia and the rest of the world”.

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