Hungary's Orban takes on the EU


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivering his broadside against the EU yesterday in Budapest.



As I said in a post last week, the EU has already created something akin to the United States of Europe. Certainly this is true culturally. In America there is Washington-bashing.  It's equivalent in Europe is Brussels-bashing.

Yesterday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hit out at Brussels with a rhetorical sledge-hammer.

"We will not be a colony," the leader of the hard-right Fidesz party told cheering supporters at a rally yesterday. "We will not live according to the commands of foreign powers."

The occasion was Hungary's National Day, a celebration of its 1848 revolt against the Habsburg Empire. But the real reason for Orban's anger was the decision announced Wednesday by EU Finance Ministers to withhold 495 million euros ($655 million) of funding from the Union because of Hungary's budget deficit is in breach of EU rules.

Orban is also smarting from a decision last week to give his government thirty days to revoke constitutional changes brought in January 1st that compromise judicial independence and rights to privacy. Failure to do so will result in legal proceedings being initiated by the EU.

Doubling Orban's anger is the fact that the IMF is refusing to negotiate a loan for the country until the constitutional situation is resolved to the EU's satisfaction.

At one level, Orban's arguments sound like those of any Republican governor in the American south who advocates state's rights against a meddlesome federal bureaucracy.

At another level, Orban sounds like someone who needs to be told by his lawyer: read your contract. When nations join the EU they agree to be integrated into a wide range of legally binding agreements governing their economies and political structures. The new constitution that Orban pushed through after winning an electoral landslide in 2010 is in breach of many of those agreements.

In his speech yesterday, reported by the Guardian, Orban alluded to Hungary's decades behind the Iron Curtain, ""We are more than familiar with the character of unsolicited comradely assistance, even if it comes wearing a finely tailored suit and not a uniform with shoulder patches."

It isn't comradely advice that is being offered Hungary at the moment, though. It is partners demanding that the country adhere to the legal agreements it entered into when it joined the EU.

Orban's supporters at the National Day celebration - an estimated 100,000 - won't be concerned by legal niceties. But they should remember what they are celebrating. That 1848 revolt was a catastrophic failure.