Last week, the European Commission published the latest country report on Hungary. While we have grown accustomed to certain points of criticism emanating from the European Commission, this latest report, issued a month before Hungary’s parliamentary elections, takes matters much further.
The report represents an “obvious and clear manipulation” and as such the Commission “took the Hungarian election campaign to the EU institutions,” said József Szájer, MEP and Vice-Chair of the EPP Group, at a press conference in Brussels.
“The report has been prepared on a political order. It is an open intervention in Hungary’s election campaign,” he added.
The report is published by the European Commission every six months in the framework of the European Semester program. This initiative began only six years ago, and the general tone of these biannual reports has always been critical (if often uninformed) of the Orbán Government’s work. But this time it’s different.
This time, the report conveys an antagonistic stance toward the government of Hungary and appears to serve a single political purpose: to raise objections to Hungary until this government abandons its firm defiance of any form of mandatory migrant resettlement scheme. Certain interests would prefer to have a government in Budapest that complies with a clearly much more liberal migration policy.
“Why is it that, in particular, at the time of campaigns and political turning points, the European Commission voices opinions that suggest that the glass is only half full at most?” said Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács following publication of the report last Wednesday.
Specifically, the country report criticizes Hungary’s judicial system and the integration of the Roma community. These issues were already dealt with in the lead up to the 2014 elections.
Regarding the judiciary, the EC voiced unfounded concerns about the rule of law, while on the topic of the Roma it simply ignored the accomplishments of the Orbán Governments, which have done more for the Roma population of Hungary than any other previous government. By raising these as issues in the report, the Commission sends a message just weeks before Hungarians go to vote. It’s difficult to not see that as political.
How unfortunate that some in the Commission have made the institution an increasingly political body when that’s certainly not what the basic EU treaties envisioned. In the European Union, the institutions are meant to serve the Member States and not the other way around.