A searing editorial in France’s daily newspaper, Le Monde. The article is in French, so we are including an English translation below. (The translation is far from perfect – so please forgive us!)
To read the article in its original French, click here: “Hungary Mocks European Values” in Le Monde, January 4, 2011.
On the sly, almost, the European Union (EU) has entrusted the reins of its rotating presidency on January 1st to a government – that of Hungary – which openly contravenes the European treaties. And that mocks the EU’s values as reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Until June, the Conservative government of Viktor Orban holds the six-month presidency of the EU, which gives it a leadership role in setting the agenda of the Twenty-Seven [countries that make up the EU]. But the Hungarian Parliament, where the Prime Minister’s party, Fidesz, has a massive majority, has passed several laws against the spirit of a Union which wants a democratic balance of powers.
This is particularly the case of the Media Act. Voted on December 21, 2010, this text establishes political control over the content of all media, public and private television, written or digital. An Authority on media and communication, composed of five members or persons close to Fidesz, may, since January 1 st, sanction heavy fines on media that have disseminated information not deemed “politically balanced”.
This Authority has the right to inspect computers and newspaper documents before even having identified a misdemeanor. On matters of national security, journalists are required to disclose their sources. The National News Agency broadcast a news program on radio and the three public television channels … The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the law‘threat to press freedom”.
In Brussels, the Commission reacted weakly. It expressed Monday its “doubts” about the appropriateness of this text. But it did not initiate infringement proceedings, even though this law is contrary to the European treaties. Only the Socialists, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats of Parliament have expressed explicit disapproval.
In most EU member countries – except Germany, Luxembourg and, more recently, France – the leaders are tentative. They have not dared to criticize the Hungarian government, which also has chipped away at further protections – including that of the Constitutional Court – and which displays a nationalism of a bygone age.
Faced with populist currents of opinion themselves, often hostile to Brussels, they do not hesitate to call the Orban administration what we are right to expect from a member of the Union: punctilious respect for civil liberties – which, in particular, implies a free and uncontrolled press.
They are wrong. Europe cannot just be a big market. Once membership has been obtained, a member can not escape [the very thing that] makes it special: a community of political values. This is fundamental – and it’s well deserving of a warning, in good and due form, to Budapest.