BUDAPEST — As the European Parliament prepares to vote on a resolution calling for sanctions on Hungary for so-called rule-of-law violations, it’s worth taking a moment to examine the basis of the accusations.
The parliamentary investigation on which lawmakers have been asked to base their decision — known as the Sargentini report — is misleading and riddled with factual errors. Based on liberal fundamentalism and tactical naming-and-shaming, it betrays a shallow, misjudged approach and ignores the will of the Hungarian electorate.
The report is the product of liberal bias against contemporary European conservatism, national sovereignty, core Christian-democratic values, the political roots of Europe’s founding fathers and, quite simply, against objective dialogue based on facts.
A number of the issues in the report have been dealt with already by the relevant institutions; others are still pending procedures, notably those that rely on decisions by the European Court of Justice. Some points of criticism don’t fall under the remit of the EU at all, or are simply incorrect. Despite the accusations, Hungary has proven it is committed to protecting its Roma population and providing them with public employment alternatives. Viktor Orbán‘s government was also the first to send a Roma woman to the European Parliament.
Moreover, it has always had a zero-tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism. In his visit to Hungary in July 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “Budapest is at the forefront of the states that are opposed to anti-Jewish policy.”
We represent democracy, the rule of law and liberty of thought — a real democracy, not a democracy of illusions.
Most importantly, the procedure governing the investigation was not open or fair and did not allow for factual input from the Hungarian side. In a media sphere saturated by biased information, the person tasked with this sensitive job — Judith Sargentini, a Dutch member of the European Parliament — should at least have made an attempt to step out of her own ideological echo chamber.
Instead, she held meetings behind closed doors, restricted the length of meetings with government representatives and refused to make the accusations known to Hungarian authorities. In her report, she constantly refers to the same small group of foreign NGOs, completely ignoring more than 60,000 civil organizations operating in Hungary.
As a result, the European Parliament has engaged in a political witchhunt that lacks common sense and highlights the institution’s inability to respond to complex issues. Hungary has become an “issue” for the simple reason that some of its national policies run against mainstream EU institutional logic and memory.
It is important to remember that these government policies are based on the representative power won by free and just elections. The Hungarian government is respecting the will of its electorate.
The report, by contrast, does not abide by democratic principles. Sargentini and her peers design and create policy according to a top-down approach that lacks objectivity.
There is a democratic deficit in Europe. The results of recent elections across the bloc have made this clear. Citizens want a more citizen-friendly Europe. They want a strong Europe of strong nations.
European politics is not a simple monochrome any more. The true colours of Europe and its citizens are not only represented by the left-liberal rainbow coalition that dominated the last two decades of EU politics.
Hungary’s Christian-democratic government has listened to its electorate. We represent democracy, the rule of law and liberty of thought — a real democracy, not a democracy of illusions. As the Bible tells us, a solid house has to be built on solid values and beliefs.
Politically motivated attacks and lecturing other EU leaders will divide the EU. Condemning Hungary based on the Sargentini report will lead the European Parliament down a slippery slope. The EU is facing a choice: Further polarize the bloc and undermine our own institutions, or strive for a Union that truly embraces diversity and allows countries to pursue their own legitimate approaches.
The decision is in our hands.
Judit Varga is Hungarian minister of state for EU relations.