Hungary yesterday declared its sovereign primacy over the EU. In a heated dialogue between Tibor Navracsics and Commissioner Neelie Kroes, the Hungarian deputy PM staidly remarked that his country would not impose legislation which was contrary to its new constitution. The packed committee room gasped in horrified awe. Kroes was visibly furious as she stormed out, expressing her usual ‘grave concerns’ about Hungary.
Kroes had obviously been banking on Navracsics’s compliance with the Council of Europe’s recommendations, EU member states being bound to comply with the Council of Europe’s Fundamental Charter of Human Rights under the Treaty of Lisbon. The Hungarian government is under scrutiny from the EU for the possible breach of various articles of the Charter. When asked directly where his priorities lay in implementing recommendations, however, the founding member of the ruling Fidesz party stated “I’m a Hungarian member of parliament and I have sworn allegiance to the constitution of Hungary.”
Hungary’s new constitution, which finally overturns many civil blueprints of the Communist era, has caused controversy in Brussels due to its conservative ethos. Yesterday’s hearing was held in the wake of the Union’s concerns surrounding this and Hungary’s socio-economic situation. Questions were raised concerning Media laws (which are not a political competence, as it turns out), division of state powers, retirement ages, allegations of racism, suppression of political opposition and new measures to promote traditional family values. The Alliance for Liberals and Democrat’s Sophie in ’t Veld complained that Hungarian schools are becoming increasingly Catholicized and falling out of the hands of the state, while others raised concerns that the constitutional concept of marriage as a union between members of opposite sexes, right to life, abortion and contraception are not consistent with values supported in the European Union. In a briefing note, however, Fidesz are clear about their support of purely European values. “As we understand them, European values involve the belief in individual freedom, human rights and the Judaeo-Christian spiritual, moral and cultural heritage.”
The audience remained silent for hours as Navracsics answered to claims from the floor, but stirred when he told Commissioner Kroes that “quite simply, the Council of Europe cannot impose anything which runs counter to our constitution.” The angriest reactions to this assertion seemed to issue from the Socialist and Liberal sections of the Hemicycle.
Navracsics is a founding member of the Fidesz party, which rose on the surge anti-communist sentiment in the late 1980s. It now enjoys a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament.