“Hungary’s authoritarian drifting needs strong European action” say IHEU and EHF Presidents

19 March 2013

European institutions keep astonishingly silent to the worsening of the political situation in Hungary.

Sonja Eggerickx, President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and Pierre Galand, President of the European Humanist Federation addressed EU Presidents (Mr Barroso, Mr Schulz and Mr Van Rompuy)  in an open letter.

            

Dear Presidents,

As humanists, we want to express our deep concerns on Hungary’s new breach on democracy and to call for a strong and coordinated action of the European Union to guarantee full compliance with European laws.

On 11 March 2013, the Hungarian Parliament dominated by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party, adopted a set of constitutional amendments despite warnings from the European Union, the Council of Europe, the US Government and human rights groups.

One of these amendments dangerously limits the powers of the national Constitutional Court, one of the few institutions which has risen against Viktor Orban’s attempt to increase his party’s executive power since 2010. Amendments include allowing the Court to challenge laws only on procedural grounds, not on their substance, and annulling any decisions made by the Court prior to the introduction of the new constitution which took effect in 2012. The balance of power will no longer be ensured in Hungary with the judiciary power in the hands of the Government. The changes also include a restrictive traditional definition of family, widely regarded as agitation against LGBT rights, and allow the Government to prohibit homeless people from living on city streets.

These are just some examples of Mr Orban’s authoritarian attitude since 2010 which has ranged from restricting media freedom and independence of the national central bank to paying tribute to Hitler’s ally Miklós Horthy. In addition, with its silence if not compliance, the Hungarian Government has allowed hate speech and violence against minorities to multiply with constant harassment against LGBT people and Roma community.

The European institutions have only feebly protested to Hungary’s rapid descent toward authoritarianism, with the exception only of several Members of the European Parliament. When the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe eventually raised their voice last week, they were completely ignored by Mr Orban who rejected any criticism of infringing democracy and claimed that Hungary would not bow to external pressure. We also deeply regret that the European People’s Party has failed to criticize its Hungarian colleagues.

Since 2010, Hungary has moved away from European principles of rule of law, non-discrimination and protection of minorities with almost no resistance from European institutions. This must oblige those institutions to review the way they uphold EU laws and values in practice. Europe is not only an economic project but also a political community. We therefore urge EU institutions and the Council of Europe to increase the pressure on Hungary and to ensure – by all diplomatic and legal means – that Hungary will respect European laws and fundamental rights and freedoms”.  

Sonja Eggerickx                     Pierre Galand

IHEU President                          EHF President