Reuniting Europe

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At the turn of the year, the EU shows a sorry image of itself. Greece may be bankrupt economically, but Hungary is certainly the worst failure in democracy since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

With its two-third majority in Parliament, the centre-right Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is passing legislation limiting the independence of the Central bank, a ‘financial stability act’ contrary to EU policies, as well as a new election law designed to cement Fidesz on power for years. It also closed the only critical radio station and prepares to ban new churches such as the evangelical. Romas are sent to work in scheme reminiscent of labour camps. Protestors, including opposition leaders, are being detained. On 1 January an authoritarian new constitution enters into force.
At the same time, Hungary is asking the EU and IMF for ‘precautionary aid’ as “a kind of insurance policy” against possible future financial difficulties. S&P downgraded Hungary to “junk”, largely because of its confrontational ways with the Commission. Barroso prefers to ignore what Hungary is doing, but now he will not be able to play one of the three Chinese monkeys. The centre right European family EPP, the European Peoples’ Party, to which Fidesz is affiliated, has a similar problem. And overall, Europe has a problem, because bad example is contagious. In times of crisis, epidemics can turn to pandemics.

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  1. Usually I’m not the person to defend Barroso, but just about a week ago he wrote a very harsh letter to Orbán (as did Reding already on 12 Dec) recommending – in a way that is totally uncommon in the EU – the revocation of two laws that the Commission regards as most likely contradictory to EU law. Orbán chose to ignore the ‘friendly advice’ and his majority in Parliament passed those laws on Friday – but this time it’s unlikely that he will get away with that. Hungary cannot finance itself from the markets, with the recent downgradings even less so – the IMF is the only option, and there is no IMF credit without EC consent.

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