Guardian columnist and historian Timothy Garton Ash expresses his opinion on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and how he has successfully demolished democracy in Hungary over the last decade.
He called the demolition of democracy in Hungary a “tragedy in the heart of Europe,” and he urges the European Union to take action: “What the EU does about Hungary matters not just for Hungarians but for Europe as a whole.”
Ash firmly states in his article that Hungary is an EU member state that is no longer a democracy, and he believes that the EU needs to take action, and it needs to stop letting “its own funds being used to undermine European values.”
“The continent of Europe may have many different kinds of regime, but the European Union must be a community of democracies.”
He also points out that the human rights organisation, Freedom House, downgraded Hungary to the status of “partly free” country, about which Daily News Hungary also reported. Hungary is the only EU member state to earn this dishonour.
In his article, he lists all the actions taken by Orbán’s government, which eventually led to the current political state of Hungary:
- “The state administration favours Orbán’s cronies and family members with government contracts.”
- “The government punishes independent media owners and NGO or opposition supporters with arbitrary tax investigations.”
- “The government uses state resources for Fidesz election propaganda.”
- “Fidesz changed the electoral law so that in 2014, Fidesz got 66% of the seats in parliament on 44% of the vote.”
- “Fidesz has effectively demolished the independence of the judiciary.”
- “Much of the media, already dominated by owners closely tied to the Orbán regime, has now been consolidated in a so-called Press and Media Foundation, effectively a pro-government cartel.”
He lists all these issues to show that “governmental powers are routinely used for purposes of political control.” Ash also pointed out that Orbán is achieving all of this with the help of EU funding.
“The biggest scandal is that he uses EU funds as a means of enhancing his illiberal control, as well as generously rewarding cronies. Hungary receives more than €3bn net a year from the EU, equivalent to just under 3% of GDP. The funds flow directly through the party-state to those whom Fidesz favours.”
Ash’s suggests that the EU should distribute more EU funding directly to local government and civil society. He ends on a positive note: “Orbán’s demolition job is not irreversible … and this hybrid regime has many more vulnerabilities.” Ash believes that “a really effective coalition of opposition forces might yet win back Budapest” this fall at the elections.