ECJ rules against gvt, Orbán and MZP address the nation and Liu Shaoang gets gold

  • Stay updated on the latest news from Hungary by signing up for the free InsightHungary newsletter:

Hungary slams European Court of Justice decision on rule of law

Hungary slammed the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and accused the top court of political bias and abuse of power following the ECJ’s decision on tying the disbursement of European funds to the rule of law.

In November of 2020, the EU adopted a mechanism that allows Brussels to cut EU funds from member states - such as Hungary and Poland - that do not maintain the democratic standards of the Union.

Hungary and Poland appealed against the decision at the ECJ, but in vain, as the top court rejected their legal challenge: “the Court of Justice, sitting as a full Court, dismisses the actions brought by Hungary and Poland against the conditionality mechanism which makes the receipt of financing from the Union budget subject to the respect by the Member States for the principles of the rule of law.”

"The decision is living evidence that Brussels is abusing its power," Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said in a Facebook post, a few minutes after the presentation of the verdict, which was streamed live and read in Hungarian by the ECJ.

"The Court of Justice of the European Union has made a political decision because of the Child Protection Act!" she said, referring to homophobic legislation adopted last year which bans the “promotion, and the representation” of homosexuality to minors.

"The verdict is another pressure on our country because we passed our child protection law in the summer," she said.

The Hungarian law discriminates against the country's LGBTQ community, according to both local and foreign critics, and earned Hungary an infraction procedure for the umpteenth time.

The mechanism "is intended to protect the Union budget from effects resulting... from breaches of the principles of the rule of law" and was thus allowed under EU treaties,” the ECJ noted in its ruling.

“The sound financial management of the Union budget and the financial interests of the Union may be seriously compromised by breaches of the principles of the rule of law committed in a Member State,” the ECJ also said.

The verdict puts Poland and Hungary to a tangible risk of seeing money cut from the billions in EU funding they receive.

“Fidesz finally lost the battle against the European Commission, the EU will now have the right to impose sanctions on member states that violate the rule of law,” joint opposition parties reacted in a statement, following the top court’s decision.

“The stakes of the April elections have become even clearer: if Fidesz wins, we will not have access to the resources intended for the Hungarian people, and for the Hungarian economy,” the opposition parties added.

Varga said before journalists that the solution to the problem would be the “Child Protection” referendum set on the same day as the general elections on April 3: “Even Brussels will not be able to ignore the voices of the Hungarian people,” she said, adding that the dispute was “never about the rule of law, but about the protection of children.”

This statement lacks some logic, as the new mechanism had been adopted way earlier (in 2020) than the adoption of the homophobic laws (in 2021), but Varga stormed out of the presser and gave no chance to journalists to confront her with the facts.

"The Court of Justice of the European Union has decided that it no longer gives money to thieves,” Péter Márki-Zay, the challenger of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a Facebook post.

“These funds are due to the Hungarians. We will send Orbán away and the new government will bring home the funds!” he added.

Hungarian NGOs have welcomed the ECJ’s verdict. 

"Today's ruling underscores that the dismantling of the rule of law will have financial consequences and must lead to triggering the conditionality regulation without delay. The HHC has called out the deteriorating situation in Hungary for years now, and the European Commission has at its disposal the necessary information to make use of this new tool. The Hungarian government's latest attempts to attack the CJEU's independence should not be taken lightly: it is yet another challenge against the rule of law, this time at a European level. This must stop,” Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee said in a statement. 

Orbán launches election campaign in state of the nation speech

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered a political campaign speech masquerading as a state-of-the-nation speech, exactly 50 days before the general elections, on Saturday.

Orbán started his hour-long speech by recalling how the Hungarian government made a stand during the pandemic, whereas the situation in Europe was much worse: “Hungarian health care was outstanding, and the state administration, the police and the soldiers worked quickly and in a disciplined manner.”

“The country's ability to act was not in jeopardy for a moment and most people think Hungary defended itself quite well,” he said. “This was not the case in Europe: people's confidence had evaporated from governments and protests had to be suppressed by force,” he added.

If the Left governs, there is no money, he said, quickly switching to campaign mode: “The Iron Lady (Margaret Thatcher) said the problem with the Socialists was that they always run out of others' money. And indeed, they take money away from those who worked for it at first with high taxes. That’s being spent quickly, so they have to take out loans that they want to repay with the money that is being taken away from people again with even higher taxes,” he said.

“In the end, both taxes and debt are in the sky, and they have a crumbling economy: unemployment, austerity measures, mountains of debts, IMF:  No money. If the Left rules, there is no money. It's always the end of the song,” he hinted at his political opponents.

Speaking of concrete measures, Orban announced that the fuel price cap (set at 480 forints) would be extended for another three months, until May 15.

He also said that the coronavirus vaccine factory in Debrecen would be operational by the end of the year.

Orbán warned that the Hungarian hard stance on migration would be only “alive as long as Fidesz was in power.”

“The Hungarian defensive lines stand on the border only as long as Fidesz is in government, because Gyurcsány would allow migrants, and once migrants are admitted, they cannot be returned, and then there will be a large open society here,” he said.

Saturday’s was his 23rd state of the nation speech, and Orbán did not go into much detail about his administration’s ongoing dispute with the EU Commission on the rule of law.

However he did say that the root of the problem was a dispute in the ways Western and Hungarian societies viewed migration.

“The EU is supporting the invasion. The Italian border is as perforated as a pasta strainer, and the Germans have simply declared themselves to be an immigrant nation, Orbán said, calling Brussels’ fight on the rule of law a “jihad”.

Orbán also tackled international issues, such as the situation of the Balkans and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

About the Balkan region, he said that these countries needed to be included in the European Union, and a Balkan Marshall package was needed for helping these southern European countries to catch up.

On the build-up of tensions between Moscow and Kiev, he underlined that Hungary’s interests were clear, war had to be avoided, because it could  bring millions of migrants from Ukraine to Hungary.

Orbán spoke on the first day of the official start of the electoral campaign before the general elections set for April 3.

The election campaign officially starts 50 days before the date of the ballot: on February 12.

Hungary’s roughly 8 million voters will have the opportunity to cast two ballots in the single-round election deciding 199 seats of the Parliament.

One ballot directly elects lawmakers in 106 individual constituencies, while the remaining seats are distributed based on votes cast for a party list.

The law on elections demands that prospective candidates secure 500 signatures by February 25 to run in an individual constituency.

On Saturday, both Fidesz and the six united opposition parties gathered the necessary signatures in a couple of hours.

Orbán is aiming to win a fourth straight term in power, but faces his closest contest since coming to power in 2010 after six opposition parties formed an electoral alliance to try to oust him, uniting behind 49 year-old Márki-Zay.

Marki-Zay criticizes Orban’s last three terms

Opposition leader Péter Márki-Zay strongly slammed the last twelve years of the Orban government in his state of the nation speech on Thursday.

Márki-Zay started his speech by admitting that twelve years ago, also voted for Fidesz, believing what Fidesz was campaigning for.

“Viktor Orban has received an unparalleled mandate and an unparalleled opportunity from the electorate, and an unparalleled amount of money from the European Union, compared to which we have not only failed to catch up with Austria today, but we are also performing worse than Romania in many respects,” the conservative 49 year-old mayor of Hódmezővásárhely said.

Hungary has general elections on April 3.  Prime Minister Orbán is aiming at grabbing a fourth consecutive term, while the opposition parties have united and rallied behind Márki-Zay, who was elected Prime Minister candidate in opposition primary elections last October.

The challenger also recognized results of the past 12 years such as a ban on slot machines and indoor smoking, family support or community service.

These, along with the border fence in the south of Hungary, will be kept by his government should the opposition win the elections.

According to Márki-Zay, Orbán failed to remember the 43,000 people who died in the coronavirus epidemic.

Marki-Zay went on and named the Fidesz-related scandals  - Völner, Kaleta, Szájer, Borkai - at length, and said that this system should be replaced on 3 April. 

“He pretends to be a modest man with little money, but he returns home to a castle and does not even dare to visit a kindergarten without a bulletproof vest,” he also said, arguing that Orban lost contact with everyday’s problems.

"Today, Hungary is led by the most corrupt government of the last millennium,” he said repeatedly, and made an exhaustive list about what Fidesz grabbed during the last twelve years, from banks to tobacco shops. 

The opposition leader also hinted at Wednesday’s decision of the European Court of Justice and noted that Hungary could lose billions of euros in EU funds until the country's prime minister was “a thief.”

This all can be changed on April 3 by voting against Orbán, Márki-Zay underlined.

He finished by reminding electors that a vote cast for the candidates of the opposition coalition was the only good vote for a change of government.

He then called for a major rally on March 15.

Liu Shaoang received his gold medal from Pál Schmitt

“I dominated Sunday, it was a perfect race,” Liu Shaoang said after taking home the gold medal for the 500-meter men’s short track speed skaters at the Beijing Olympics on Monday night.

The athlete was awarded the medal by former Hungarian President Pál Schmitt, a member of the International Olympic Committee and the honorary chairman of the Hungarian Olympic Committee.

"I had tears in my eyes during the national anthem, but the feeling that I was an Olympic champion was already in me, I processed it, because I already felt like I was going to be an Olympic champion on the morning of the final,” Shaoang said after the ceremony.

“Yesterday was a long day, after the race we were still waiting for a doping control, we had to have dinner and I was able to talk to all my loved ones,” he added.

The results of the competitors, the professional staff and the support of the association and the government made it possible that the short-track speed skaters have won three medals, including one gold at the Beijing Winter Olympics, according to Lajos Kósa, President of the National Association of Hungarian skaters (MOKSZ).

"Coaches had a huge role to play in this, especially Attila Telegdi and Ákos Bánhidi, who I think are now the best coaches in the world," Kósa said, adding that the 500-meter gold medalist Liu Shaoang was one of the best in the discipline with his Beijing results.

"He was a finalist in three races, winning a gold and a bronze, plus he finished fourth, and he's only 23 years old, so we are really having high hopes,” he also said.

At the Beijing Olympics, Hungary proved itself to belong in the "Category A nations" of short-track speed skating, along with China, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Russia and Japan.

Uralkodj magadon!
Új kommentelési szabályok érvényesek 2019. december 2-től. Itt olvashatod el, hogy mik azok, és itt azt, hogy miért vezettük be őket.