Hungary’s foreign minister, János Martonyi, Friday offered to make peace with Europe. He explained in a press conference that the Hungarian government would propose two new constitutional amendments to address European grievances.
“But beware of Hungarians bearing gifts. The proposed constitutional amendments do not fix problems that Europe has had with the new Hungarian constitutional order. The new amendments may remove some offending language from the constitution itself, but they won’t actually change the facts on the ground unless the provisions that will be removed from the constitution are also removed from the other laws, too. And, judging from the press conference, that is still in doubt. (...)
The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee is scheduled to vote on 19 June on a tough, accurate and fair report written by Portuguese MEP Rui Tavares. It calls for a rigorous monitoring regime to ensure that Hungary complies with the basic values of the European Union. If the report passes, it goes to the floor of the European Parliament for a debate and vote in the July plenary session. If Fidesz can kill the report in committee, the monitoring regime dies.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is scheduled to vote on 25 June on a different report, also very critical and accurate. If it passes, a different monitoring regime would be established to ensure that Hungary remains a rights-protecting constitutional democracy. But here, too, the vote is expected to be very close. (...)
The Hungarian government desperately wants to avoid sanctions from Europe. It will therefore appear to tinker endlessly with its laws in order to give the impression that it is still in a “dialogue” with European bodies. But by now, Europe should see what the Hungarian government is doing. The government has made small adjustments to the laws before, attempting to fool Europe again and again into thinking that Hungary is a reasonable partner that shares European values. But appearances are deceiving. Fidesz knows that if it can just stay a step ahead of Europe by proposing one legal change after another, triggering one more earnest European evaluation after another, it can avoid the day of reckoning.
But Europe should see by now that the Fidesz inner circle is full of “belts and suspenders” kinds of guys. They love redundancies. Altering clauses here and there in the giant legal edifice that Fidesz has constructed may appear to respond to Europe’s complaints. But the changes Fidesz has made in the past were only for show and there is every reason to suspect that the same is true again. They have let nothing important slip from their control. At some point, Europe will have to stop accepting the Hungarian government’s endless minor proposals and realize that Fidesz has no intention of releasing its iron grip on power without a much bigger fight.”