The European Union’s plans to tie the rule-of-law mechanism to cuts in EU funding are directly targeting Hungary and Poland despite claims to the contrary from European People’s Party group leader Manfred Weber, writes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Orbán was responding to Weber’s online press conference on Dec. 3 where Weber claimed that the EU’s rule-of-law mechanism, which would enable Brussels to influence policies in nation states across the bloc, was not focused on Hungary and Poland.
“Manfred Weber stated in an online press event on December 3rd to correspondents accredited to Germany that the notorious rule of law mechanism is not being set up expressly against Hungary and Poland. He added that his goal is to depoliticize rule of law questions and remove them from political party debates. The truth, however, is completely the opposite, as the following statements prove,” wrote Orbán in an official letter.
Orbán goes on to cite the many instances in which top European Commission officials have either made statements clearly opposed to Hungary and Poland or openly pointed to how rule-of-law could be used as a tool to punish both countries:
” There are rule of law crises in some Member States, particularly in Hungary and Poland,” said European Commissioner of Justice Didier Reynders.
Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner for Equality, said, “This mechanism is a means for making Member States fall in line.”
“Orbán is building a sick democracy,” claimed Vera Jourová, the vice-president of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, to German magazine Der Spiegel .
Franz Timmermans, the executive vice president of the European Commission for the European Green Deal, claimed that a “free press in Hungary is virtually non-existent.”
In all of these instances, there is either a clear or implied threat directed at Hungary and Poland. For example, Timmermans statement on the press freedom in Hungary can be tied directly back to the EU’s rule-of-law hearings on “press freedom” in Hungary that have already occurred and almost certainly will in the future. Unlike Western European states where liberal media remains the dominant force, Hungary’s media landscape is more pluralistic, and features a balance between conservative and liberal news sources. This balance, however, is not looked favorably upon those in the EU who want to see a media model where conservative voices are censored or seen in the minority, as seen in many countries in the West.
Orbán also points to statements from members of the European Parliament:
“Hungary and Poland must be financially starved out,” said European Parliament Vice President and MEP Katarina Barley said in October in a statement that sparked outrage from both the Polish and Hungarian governments.
MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said, “There is no need to prove whether the functioning of Hungary and Poland is in line with the system that’s about to be established. This has already been proven. It must be put into action immediately.”
Top government officials have also been open about what rule of law is all about, according to statements provided by Orbán in his letter:
“Finally, we will have a mechanism that is going to be very painful for Hungary and Poland,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
“This cancerous tumor must be removed. Hungary is a dictatorship like Belarus,” claimed Luxembourgian Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn.
Despite Weber’s claims, Orbán wrote, “The situation is clear, dear Manfred: You want to alter the current legal status in order to create a mechanism that you immediately turn against Hungary and Poland. In light of the statements by the European Commission, European Parliament and national governments, you can no longer deny this. Now, you want us, Hungarians to give our consent.”
“Over the course of history, Germans have asked for many things from us, Hungarians. Yet, you are the first ones to consider us Panscher. That we are not,” Orbán concluded the letter, with the German word “Panscher” translating to “adulterer” or “cheater’ in English.