3 Sep

On Monday, at the Alpbach international forum focusing primarily on issues related to the European Union, Justice Minister Judit Varga stood up for the state of the rule of law in Hungary.

The Minister attended a panel discussion about the future of European integration via an online link. She expressed hope that after the crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic, the “quality” of cooperation among Member States in the EU will improve and the European integration will continue as a close cooperation of strong Member States, but without unnecessary ideological debates and the application of double standards.

She took the view that in the EU we need “intellectual sovereignty,” and said she was convinced that the crisis of trust that had developed before the pandemic and Brexit would also disperse. Hungary would like its national characteristics and identity to be respected as laid down in the Treaties of the EU.

The coronavirus epidemic, too, highlighted that the EU is a community of strong nations where in crisis situations the primary responsibility lies with national governments, Ms. Varga pointed out. She added that EU institutions were not sufficiently prepared for a quick response, but contributed effectively to improved coordination among Member States.

Regarding the economic recovery package and the long-term EU budget, Ms. Varga said upon accession to the EU, Central European countries proved to be good pupils, they met the necessary economic criteria. At the same time, in the context of post-crisis recovery, they demonstrated readiness to cooperate within the EU, and took part in the entire process in a constructive spirit, also taking into consideration the interests of large Member States.

The Hungarian government supports “smart integration” within the EU which improves the quality of cooperation among Member States and avoids unnecessary ideological debates, the Minister said.

Ms. Varga described the procedure instituted by the European Parliament against Hungary under Article Seven as politically motivated, and pointed out that in Hungary there is no problem of any kind with the enforcement of the rule of law.

She highlighted that it is primarily the liberal mainstream of the international media that claims that the conditions of the rule of law are not fully met in Hungary; however, these reports are misleading and contain no facts. Additionally, in the European Parliament the Hungarian answers and position were not even heard, she pointed out.

She also spoke about plans to tie EU grants to the fulfilment of fundamental principles related to the rule of law. She said the government’s main problem with this is that the definitions supplied so far are uncertain in a legal sense; for instance, they do not offer a precise explanation regarding what the violation of the rule of law means.

The discussion was also attended by Austrian Minister for the EU and the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler who urged ongoing talks and consultations among Member States in the interest of the improvement of EU cooperation.

Regarding issues related to the rule of law, she took the view that the conditions of a fair procedure must be afforded to every Member State. At the same time, she argued in favour of connecting together EU disbursements and the enforcement of fundamental democratic principles.

At the discussion, the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (Brexit) was also on the agenda. Ms. Varga described Brexit as an important lesson from which we must learn. She took the view that it also showed that there was a crisis of trust within the EU, and the solution is “smarter” integration, not “more” integration.

Ms. Edtstadler said the coronavirus epidemic came as a shock to the EU, several flaws of the integration came to the fore, and in the interest of remedying these flaws, it is necessary to make certain adjustments to cooperation within the EU. She said one of the most important aspirations is to take the EU closer to the people, and to take the people’s opinions into consideration more.

The Alpbach forum has been held annually since 1945, for the 75th time this year. Its goal is to discuss topical socio-political questions concerning the entire continent from angles involving science, politics, business and culture. The main topic of this year’s forum is the post-coronavirus epidemic situation.

At the panel discussion, Ms. Edtstadler mentioned that despite the epidemic, she has been in contact with the Hungarian minister throughout, they regularly consult by telephone. At the same time, Ms. Varga expressed hope that next year the organisers will be able to hold the Tyrol forum with personal attendance and that she will be able to attend.

(MTI/Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister)