All quiet on the Western front

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In a column in Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet entitled “All Quiet on the Western Front”, Justice Minister Judit Varga summarizes the joint Hungarian-Polish victory last week at the EU summit.
The Hungarian delegation returned home from the European Council meeting with the heads of state and government last Friday having had achieved all its objectives. The unity of the European Union has been preserved because the European Council has reached a consensus on the still controversial elements of the new seven-year budget.
European solidarity has been maintained, as aid can finally reach the member states where it is most needed. The constitutional order of the European Union has been defended because the new budgetary mechanism cannot circumvent the Article 7 procedure for the protection of the rule of law.
We managed to defend Hungary’s sovereignty and constitutional traditions, because in the future no one can force political and ideological expectations on us with budgetary means. We have managed to protect the money of Hungarian people and businesses: the funds we owe will not be deductible for fabricated or abritrary reasons.
The success is so obvious that even those actors who could not be accused of having the least bit of sympathy for the Hungarian government were forced to admit it. According to opposition politiciain Péter Róna, for example, Viktor Orbán achieved an amazing result and redefined the essence of the European Union. According to another opposition politician, Ákos Hadházy, the Union did not simply bow, but laid down before the Hungarian prime minister. Liberal news portal assessed that “everyone won a bit with the EU compromise, but Orbán won the most”.
The institutional reading of what happened is also instructive. The European Parliament has often been part of the problem rather than the solution. The heads of state and government had no choice but to find a solution that could neutralize the European Parliament’s unlimited and self-imposed institutional and ideological ambitions.
Of course, the European Parliament is not famous for quietly swallowing a bitter pill. We can expect that, with the support of the European Commission, it will fight for the rule of law and open up new political fronts in the area of migration and gender.
It has been spectacularly demonstrated that Hungary and Poland have entered a higher political weight group and are able to exert a decisive influence on EU decision-making in close cooperation. They have gone from being the recipients and adopters of EU policies to shaping them.
This is not merely a matter of negotiation or the result of well-chosen political tactics. Behind Hungary and Poland are economic performance, a strong worldview, a clear vision, and the growing political influence based on them.
The member states of the region are increasingly confident in their own responses to current challenges in Europe and the world. If this is no longer treated by Western Europe and the EU institutions as deviance, but as part of a self-evident European dialogue, then we can say that not only has the economic sphere of Western Europe been expanded, but that Europe has been truly reunited.
This process is far from over, but Central and Eastern Europe has arrived and been put on the map.
Title image: The Hungarian Parliament building. (Jakub Halun, Wikimedia Commons)

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