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Hungary counts on Poland veto, won’t backtrack

Hungary will not backtrack on the three laws that recently received heavy criticism in the European Parliament - leading to the potential triggering of the Article 7 procedure against Hungary - as they “belong to national competence,” Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó told Reuters on Monday.

(Photo: kormany.hu/Gergely Botár)

The Hungarian minister was asked at the Reuters Central and Eastern Europe Investment Summit whether Hungary would backtrack on any of the three laws - affecting asylum seekers, foreign universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)- on which basis the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the triggering of Article 7 against Hungary. Szijjártó rejected the suggestion by saying “No. Why should we?”

Szijjártó stressed that the laws in question “belong to national competence, so I think European institutions should refrain from making attempts at interfering with domestic issues,” according to Reuters.

In its resolution on May 17, the European Parliament condemned what it called a “serious deterioration” in the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary, at the start of a process that could theoretically lead to Budapest losing its EU voting rights. However, as Reuters notes, the European Union’s rule of unanimity means that Hungaryʼs ally Poland can block any move to strip Hungary of its voting rights.

“After the vote [on triggering Article 7] we have talked on the phone with my Polish colleague, who made it very clear that they would not assist any kind of politically motivated actions and they do not support the process of threatening any member state with such kind of Chapter 7 issues,” Szijjártó told Reuters. “I have no doubt that Poland would act in a situation (like this) as we would act regarding Poland,” the minister added.

MEPs voting on May 17 said that Hungary’s current fundamental rights situation justifies launching the formal procedure to determine whether there is a “clear risk of a serious breach” of EU values by a Member State, according to a press statement released after the resolution was adopted.

The resolution called on the Hungarian government to repeal laws tightening rules against asylum-seekers and NGOs, and to reach an agreement with the U.S. authorities making it possible for the Central European University (CEU) to remain in Budapest as a free institution. In addition, it called on the European Commission to strictly monitor the use of EU funds by the Hungarian government.

In what seems to have become a default response to almost any criticism of government policies, Szijjártó responded to the EP resolution by blaming the influence of Hungarian-born financier George Soros. Both he and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have since dismissed the resolution on Hungary as a “Soros report.”