Brussels starts power struggle with Orbán

After quibbling for several weeks, the European Commission launched three legal actions against the Hungarian government. But who will back down first – Budapest or Brussels? The Hungarian press is not expecting any great changes.

Published on 18 January 2012 at 14:39
Viktor Orbán in Brussels, 14 April, 2011

On January 17, the Commission sent three letters of formal notice to the Hungarian government to change or withdraw the contested legislation which, according to Brussels, does not guarantee the independence of three key areas: the central bank, the judiciary and the data protection agency. If Budapest does not comply within the one month deadline, the Commission could file a suit before the European Court of Justice. For its part, the European Parliament is debating the issue on January 18, in the presence of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Brussels rules "three strikes" against Viktor Orbán, says centre-left Hungarian daily Népszabadság on its front page. Europe, the paper explains-


… is currently saying but one thing: either the Hungarian people wake up and change government in the next elections or we will witness the failure of the state and the government will finally accept the European ‘dictates’. For European diplomacy, there is no other scenario.

Nonetheless notes Népszabadság, EU institutions run the risk of not being able to apply sufficient pressure.


The Commission speaks the language of the law, the European Parliament that of politics, but Orbán only understands the language of power. Power, in Europe, rests with the Council, that is the Member States themselves. If the national politicians (especially the ‘major players’) were to decide to send a determined and unambiguous warning, that might work […] The pressure of the European Parliament must not be underestimated, but what are the consequences of these debates? Nothing.

Right-wing daily [Magyar Nemzet, for its part,](http:// says that "the European Commission criticises three precise laws and that is not the end of the world. It’s just a question of technicalities, not political or emotional issues. For now, it’s up to the legal experts to act". But, the paper warns-


Europe does not have faith in Hungary, neither in its economic policies nor in its commitment to democracy. But we do not have time to pout. Discussions must be open because the Union has no interest in seeing Hungary on its knees. As we saw last weekend [during an anti-European demonstration organised by the far-right Jobbik party in which, among other things, European flags were burned] the extreme right can profit from the Union’s excessive criticism.

At stake right now is "Hungary or Orbán," sums up the front page of left-wing daily Népszava. But one must not lose track of the essentials, the paper warns. The three violations singled out by the Commission-

… are but the tip of the iceberg. The main problem is that Orbán is building a political and legal system that does not conform to European values. […] One can justify, haggle and play with words as the legal experts do. But in Strasbourg today, the Euro MPs will throw much more profound criticism at Orbán. And he must toe the line, not in Strasbourg but at home. And as soon as possible.

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