Fine Gael must stand up to Fidesz in EU Parliament vote
Speaking in response to today’s debate in the European Parliament on Hungary, which precedes tomorrow’s decision on whether or not to trigger Article 7, the EU’s ‘rule of law’ procedure that requires all member states to not reverse direction on democracy and fundamental rights, Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin spoke about how we are living in exceptional times where democrats from all parties cannot afford to sit on the fence about the rise of authoritarian states within the European Union.
Deputy Howlin also spoke in response to the announcement that Donald Trump’s visit to Ireland may not proceed.
Deputy Howlin said:
“Today the European Parliament is debating whether or not to sanction Hungary, which is moving rapidly away from the norms of democracy and human rights under the Government of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party.
“In Ireland, we may feel that Hungary is a long way away from our day-to-day concerns. But as the examples of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have shown, populism is a real and present danger to Ireland’s security and prosperity.
“After the fall of communism, Eastern Europe benefitted from foreign and charitable investment to shore up a commitment to democracy and human rights. However, the US State Department has just announced that it is cancelling a program to support non-government media outlets in Hungary. And the Hungarian government has been actively campaigning against the activities of pro-democracy civil society groups. All the more reason for Europe’s longstanding democracies, including Ireland, to take a stand to ensure all EU member states maintain the rule of law and democracy.
“Viktor Orbán has promoted what has been called ‘illiberal democracy’. He has weakened the independence of the judiciary. He has interfered with electoral districts to the benefit of the Fidesz Party. He has granted voting rights to ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries, while pursuing strongly anti-migrant policies within Hungary. His Government has created a press authority under the control of Fidesz Party loyalists and used this to suppress an independent press in Hungary.
“There can be no doubt that the Hungarian Government has a case to answer for to the European Parliament. In particular, Fine Gael has a case to answer as they share the EPP grouping in the European Parliament with Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party.
“Labour will be closely watching to see how Fine Gael’s MEPs vote in relation to Hungary.
“As an example that shows we are not living in ordinary time, former US President, Barack Obama, has taken the historically unprecedented step of directly criticising the administration of his successor Donald Trump.
“The suppression of press freedoms, in both Hungary and in Donald Trump’s railing against the US media, is another example of extraordinary behaviour by would-be ‘strong man’ governments.
“People’s commitment to peacefully demonstrating in favour of democracy and rule of law is important. The indication that President Trump may not visit Ireland could certainly be because we made it clear that he is not a normal US President and his approach to politics is beyond what is acceptable.
“I certainly hope that the debate about Hungary in the European Parliament sends a strong signal to the EU and Hungary that minimum standards of democracy must be upheld.”