Thursday

22nd Feb 2024

Opinion

Orbán, Ukraine, Putin and Hungary's election

  • Orbán might like people to think that relations between Hungary and the EU are under strain, but it is actually relations with Orbán himself. Whenever we condemn the Hungarian government, we always express unwavering solidarity with Hungarian citizens (Photo: S&D group)
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The Hungarian government, led by Viktor Orbán, has failed to show the true leadership that the Hungarian people deserve.

By pursuing Vladimir Putin as a close ally in the weeks leading up to the invasion of Ukraine, Orbán alienated himself from all other European leaders. Now, he should continue to distance itself from Putin and those linked to him. Hungarian people deserve better.

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In a few weeks' time, Hungarians have an opportunity to choose a progressive alternative. The progressive opposition platform united against Orbán's Fidesz party offers an end to the divisive and dangerous politics that have taken root in Hungary over the past decade.

People have the chance to choose a government that puts them first, that believes in social justice and equal opportunity and in making sure no one is left behind.

Crucially, they have the chance to choose a leader that respects democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, and does not flirt with other autocrats and bullies on the world stage.

Over the past 10 years, government authorities in Hungary have broken the rules and ignored the values that define the EU.

They have progressively eroded democracy and the rule of law to a point where today Hungary is no longer a democracy. A Parliament weakened by supermajorities. Judicial authorities brought under political control. Free media dismantled. Minorities discriminated against. Vulnerable communities vilified. Friends and cronies made richer every day.

As a result, year after year, the European Parliament has fought to give the EU the tools to guarantee not a single cent of EU taxpayer money is wasted.

Last year, the European Parliament managed to put in place a mechanism that makes governments access to EU funding conditional on respect for the rule of law. We need a strong response to deal with bullies and strongmen obsessed by dismantling our community of freedom and values.

The European Parliament is a place where people with different points of views are able to debate, contribute and come to an agreement on ways to change people's lives for the better.

The European Parliament represents every single citizen of the EU.

Last year, Orbán showed his true colours when he called for the powers of the European Parliament to be cutback. He is afraid of accountability. He is also out of touch.

Only a few months later, it is good to see that a majority of people surveyed in Hungary want to see the European Parliament play a more important role.

David Sassoli, the late European Parliament president and a true socialist and democrat said in response: "Only those who do not like democracy think of dismantling parliaments."

Solidarity with Hungary's citizens

With no interest in playing fair, Orbán wants to create an irreversible dividing line between Hungary and the rest of the EU.

Orbán might like people to think that relations between Hungary and the EU are under strain, but this is far from the truth. It is relations with Orbán that are under strain.

Whenever we condemn the Hungarian government, we always express unwavering solidarity with Hungarian citizens. In Europe's family of nations, when one of us suffers, we all suffer.

When the EU triggers the new budget conditionality mechanism, the tool in place to ensure governments that flout the rule do not receive EU funding, we will guarantee that funding will still end up where it needs to, via the likes of NGOs or civil society organisations.

This week, the Socialists & Democrats are in Budapest to promote an alternative path and to show people in Hungary that they will never be left behind.

As Socialists & Democrats, we are determined to put solidarity back at the heart of Europe. We believe in for social justice and democracy for all.

Basic values like fairness, the rules of law and fundamental rights may be under serious threat in Hungary, but people are not powerless to change. The time for real change is now.

Author bio

Iratxe García Pérez is president of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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