Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Hungary's new leaders face tough reform agenda

  • The Hungarian parliament is set to see a major overhaul (Photo: EUobserver)

A lighter bureaucracy, a tougher criminal code, a "green bank" to support climate-friendly investments and obligatory sports activities in schools - these are some of the priorities of Hungary's future one-party government after the overwhelming election victory by the conservative Fidesz party.

With 68 percent of the vote, Fidesz does not need a coalition partner for the 2010-14 legislature. Its two-thirds majority, established in Sunday's second round ballot, gives it the power to push through constitutional change and serious reforms. It also raises expectations among Fidesz' faithful, with any potential disappointments set to rebound in the favour of the far-right Jobbik party.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The new parliament's 386 seats will be filled by 263 Fidesz MPs, 59 social-democratic deputies, 47 from Jobbik, 16 from the liberal-green LMP faction and one independent member. The impact of Fidesz' victory has left the defeated parties reeling. The leader of the small conservative MDF party, pushed out of parliament, has resigned as has MSZP party chief Ildiko Lendvai.

Analysts for the Political Capital (PC) think tank believe Fidesz will not act swiftly to switch Hungary's constitution towards a French-style presidential system. Still, if the new government wants to keep voters happy, it will have to make good on promises to trim parliament and local government, moves which would require constitutional change.

PC director Peter Kreko said that plans to deliver a leaner local government are likely to meet heavy resistance from current holders of lucrative public office.

Fidesz party leader and likely next prime minister, Viktor Orban, wants to reduce the number of parliamentary seats from 386 to 200. In addition, experts believe he will go for symbolic changes such as rehabilitating the status of the holy Hungarian crown and introducing double citizenship as a gesture to Hungarian minorities living in neighbouring states.

Mr Orban has denied rumours that he intends to bring forward local elections scheduled for October. He said decisions of this kind need to be based on broad "national consultations" and could be introduced only in the longer term. Still, Fidesz seems to be serious about cutting back public administration costs from eight to six percent of GDP, which would amount to savings of some €1.8 billion. Another highly symbolic, although financially less important, move could be a salaries cap for board members of state-owned companies.

In the domestic security field, Fidesz has announced the strengthening of local police forces, with a special focus on the northern regions of the country. At the same time, the party plans to introduce a "three strike" rule for criminal offenders, meaning that anybody committing the same crime three times over would see their penalty doubled.

On taxation, the new government may try to close existing loopholes but has only limited room for promised tax cuts. Small and medium enterprises are the designated beneficiaries of whatever the new government manages to deliver. VAT on the building of "social flats" for the less well off is to drop to the EU's minimum five percent from the current 20 percent to help low-income families. By setting up a state-run green bank, Mr Orban also intends to boost sustainability and energy efficiency.

Fidesz wants to reintroduce the requirement that pupils who fail their exams in elementary schools repeat classes, a measure abolished by the social-liberal government. Additional mandatory sports classes will also be introduced to improve the comparatively poor physical shape of the country's youth.

The future leadership has already identified 13 investment projects contracted under the MSZP government for review, amid suspicions of corruption. Most concern large infrastructure projects and some are already under police investigation.

Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

EU probes into Hungary and Poland on rule of law and democracy are back on the agenda of EU affairs ministers - but with little guidance from the Romanian presidency, without a clear idea where the procedures are headed.

Opinion

Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.

Agenda

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Agenda

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us