Viviane Reding recently called for Hungary's Fidesz, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, to be expelled from the European People's Party (EPP). The former Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship answers Euronews' questions about this controversial issue.
Could you explain to Euronews why you support the idea of expelling Hungary from the EPP?
I am not supporting the idea of expelling Hungary from the EPP; I am calling for the eviction of Victor Orbán and his ruling Fidesz political party for several reasons and major failures.
The European People’s Party, founded 42 years ago in my home country (Luxembourg), has not only shaped the European project and history but also enshrined European fundamental values and our Bill of Rights in the Treaties. As a leading political force in Europe, historically advocating for a stable and strong Union based on Christian Democrat values such as solidarity, justice and human dignity, the EPP has to avoid political connivance with a euro-sceptic party that undermines the rule of law.
I will be straight to the point: systematic efforts to weaken the independence of the judiciary, to weaken the Constitution, to eliminate checks and balances, to reduce media freedom, to control universities, to discriminate human beings according to their ethnicity or religion IS NOT OUR IDENTITY! On the contrary, these repeated political actions destroy our values.
Viktor Orbán is leading Hungary away from the rule of law, from our fundamental rights, from EU solidarity, from the EU project. He is using public funds to wage a massive propaganda campaign against the European Union, against free movement and against the rule of law.
How should the EU act vis-à-vis countries, such as Hungary and Poland, which are clearly moving towards authoritarianism?
When I was Commissioner in charge of Justice and Fundamental Rights, I launched a series of infringement procedures targeting Orbán’s moves to centralize power and won two cases against Hungary in the European Court of Justice (independence of the judiciary and of the data protection authority). Confronted with systemic threats to the rule of law in Hungary, I designed “the rule of law framework” in 2014.
On several occasions, the European Commission expressed concerns directly and repeatedly with the Hungarian and Polish governments, thus playing actively its role as Guardian of the Treaties. Founders of the European Union never considered the possibility that a Member State could backslide on values and therefore did not create efficient procedures to deal with such a deviation.
Legally speaking, Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty (known as “the nuclear option”) allows the Council to suspend certain rights, including voting rights in the Council. In January 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution supporting the European Commission’s decision to trigger Article 7 against Poland for passing constitutional reforms that undermine the independence of the judiciary. Next week, the European Parliament will have to decide whether to trigger Article 7 against Hungary or not. Unfortunately, instead of acting, the topic is used by the Council and some Heads of State for electoral purposes.
As The Economist wrote in April 2018, “Viktor Orbán campaigns against the EU from Monday to Friday, and collects its subsidies at weekends”.
Viviane Reding is former Vice-President of the European Commision, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, former member of the European Parliament. She is member of the European People's Party (EPP).
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