Hungary: votes show nuanced positions among countries and political families

Yesterday, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for a stronger EU response to some of the initiatives carried forward by the Hungarian government. Amongst others, Orban’s policies on migration and the attacks against the Central European University in Budapest are harshly criticised in the report.

An ad-hoc liberal-left wing coalition succeeded to rally a majority to push through a very critical resolution that asks for the launch of the rule of law procedure, which is only activated in case of risks of breaches of fundamental values of the EU. However, the voting records show that there is not a broad consensus among European political forces on taking decisive action on Hungary. More concretely, leading conservative European political parties in power in Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid and London, while agreeing that the situation in Hungary needs to be addressed, oppose taking such “nuclear” measures against the Hungarian government.

Check below what were the actual positions of key political forces across the EU.

Only 77 (out of 751) EU deputies fully support the Hungarian government

 

The leader of the far-right Italian Northern League tabled an amendment stating the full support for the actions of the Hungarian government.  In reaction, an overwhelming majority of MEPs clearly rejected this approach. Importantly, the votes on this statement allowed us to spot that two parties in government do back Budapest’s policies: the Members of the Polish Law and Justice, currently in government in Warsaw, and most (though not all) of the Members of the Croatian Democratic Union, in power in Zagreb, did endorse the statement that granted full support to Orban. If the views of these MEPs are mirrored by their party colleagues at national level (which seems likely), these countries appear inclined to oppose punitive measures against Fidesz’s policies in the Council.

Most EPP’s members did not endorse the critical report

The voting behavior indicates that the debate on Hungary has been seen by some as over-politicised. Although a very large majority of EU political forces are critical of Orban’s policies, there are disagreements regarding the extent to which (and the timing when) the EU should intervene. If, on the one hand, Liberal and Left-wing European political forces cohesively pushed for the activation of the rule of law procedure, less than half of the parliamentarians of the European political family that FIDESZ is part of, the Christian-Democrat EPP, supported the final report. The EPP politicians felt that the demands of the liberal-leftist coalition go too far too quickly.

EPG split

Notably, most parliamentarians from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Rajoy’s People’s Party, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Plenkovic’s Croatian Democratic Union rejected the final text. The MEPs from Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party and Borissov’s GERB abstained. As for the French Republicans, most of them either voted against it or abstained.

Among the EPP parties, the Belgian, the Greek, the Irish, the Luxembourgish, the Maltese, the Dutch, the Polish, the Portuguese and the Swedish delegations approved the very critical stance against the policies of their FIDESZ colleagues (this secured the needed majority for the text to pass). Not surprisingly, the British and Polish Conservatives opposed the final resolution in the form shaped by the liberal-left wing coalition.

EPP split

This occurrence indicates that, on the one hand, a majority of European political forces feel that the Orban government should revise and rewind the policies under scrutiny, while on the other hand the demands for stronger collective EU action in this regard still lack the support of key actors in Council in order to adopt “nuclear” measures. Nevertheless, the outcome of the vote in the Parliament does send a strong political signal and allows the European Commission to strengthen its scrutiny of developments in Hungary within its current margin of maneuver.

For detailed mapping of EU Parliamentarians’ and governments’ actual positions (based on actions undertaken in the EU decision-making process, not mere statements), impact analysis of Brexit, national elections or other events on EU policies contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.

About us: VoteWatch Europe is the think tank most followed by the Members of the European Parliament, according to an independent study. Our reports are also quoted frequently by European and international institutions and the world-wide media.

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