Many years have passed since Viktor Orbán began building his so-called illiberal hybrid regime, the essence of which can be summarized as follows: it is basically a copy of Putin’s political methods, with the notable difference that Orbán, who has no energy carriers to sell, uses the EU funds to finance his regime while publicly denying the reception of these funds. As we live in the 21st century with all its highly developed communication tools, it took no more than a few years for the EU institutions to finally notice this paradoxical situation, although it could’ve stayed under the radar for some more time if Orbán hadn’t launched a hatemongering media campaign against former EC President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Ever since then, we’ve been getting closer and closer to the day when the European Union truly holds Orbán to account for breaching European values and doling out the taxpayers’ money to Fidesz-friendly oligarchs.
If you look at the history of Europe’s treatment of Orbán, you can see we’ve come a long way since the time when it was just a few MEPs who demanded to take action against him, while the highest echelons of German policy makers were still busy trying to pacify Orbán in the hope that he would learn not to behave like a post-Soviet dictator and pick up some sophisticated political communication skills, the same way he had learnt to accommodate the German automotive industry with exceptional tax breaks.
To see the Commission adopting its current semi-assertive stance however, we had to somehow survive until Angela Merkel got close enough to the end of her term to stop caring about Viktor Orbán’s fate. After that, we only needed to wait just a little more until the 2022 elections were over, because the European Commission wanted to avoid launching the rule of law procedure at a time when the suspension of EU funding could still have punched a hole in Orbán’s ongoing anti-EU and pro-Putin campaign budget (in Hungary, Fidesz traditionally uses the taxpayers’ money to communicate such messages in the form of government advertisements).
However, after Orbán gained the two-thirds majority for yet another term as a result of his anti-EU campaign with unlimited financial resources and an election that could scarcely be called fair, the European Commission finally concluded they should indeed trigger the rule of law mechanism, the promise of which had been hanging over Orbán’s head for months.
As a small flaw in the process, the European Commission has not publicly released the note that was sent to the Hungarian government. Consequently, Orbán had considerable leverage to communicate the procedure to his supporters as if it was another attack by the Western European anti-family LGBTQ lobby, thus paving the political escape route for himself in case the potential loss of EU funds can hurt his regime.
If any of the funds are to be withheld at all, that is. The rule of law procedure may take at least half a year, or perhaps even more if something untoward happens, such as an international conflict, an unusually hot summer, or a potentially heated by-election in a remote village. Any of these serious factors may prompt the EU to suspend the procedure and resume handing out the money to Orbán instead, so he could perhaps go as far as to call for the HUXIT or the dissolution of the European Parliament itself in his 2024 EP election campaign. Although the Hungarian government’s corruption can even be seen from the Moon, some voices have recently suggested that the total withdrawal of EU funds might be too drastic a step, and the EU should just block a symbolic amount instead…
I can’t help but wonder when the interests of the industrial lobby and the memories of certain politicians who still have the Orbán of 1989 on their mind become less important for the EU than stopping a government that keeps undermining all European values while openly supporting Putin’s Ukraine policy.
In the meantime, millions of Hungarian citizens rightfully feel betrayed.
Source: Press release