Has Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban perhaps gone too far? In any case, the voices in the European Union are getting louder to impose sanctions on Hungary – at least. The reason is Orban’s blockade policy, with which he endangered the adoption of the sixth sanctions pact against Russia as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. Only when the EU Commission responded to his demands did Orban clear the way for the measures and thus caused a veritable affront.
The central problem is that in the EU all important decisions have to be taken unanimously. This regulation dates back to the time when the union still consisted of six members. In the meantime, however, 27 countries are sitting around the same table and it is becoming apparent that some governments are abusing the right of veto in an almost blackmailing manner in order to assert their own interests against the majority.
It is now possible to withdraw voting rights from individual countries. This is exactly what Katarina Barley, Vice-President of the European Parliament, is demanding in the case of Hungary. The country is abusing the unanimity principle in the EU as a means of blackmail, says the SPD politician. A country’s right to vote can be suspended for violations of the rule of law. “Especially in Hungary one can no longer speak of democratic and rule-of-law conditions,” explains Barley.
The politician is aiming for the so-called Article 7 procedure. In the case of Hungary, the field would already be prepared. A few years ago, such a procedure was initiated against Budapest because of concerns about the rule of law, as Prime Minister Orban continued to dismantle democracy in his country despite warnings from Brussels.
However, the procedure always failed because Polevn stood firmly on Hungary’s side and blocked the withdrawal of Hungary’s voting rights with his veto. The outbreak of war in Ukraine has changed the relationship between the two countries. While Warsaw stands by the neighboring country, Viktor Orban is compliant with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is possible that Poland will now also vote to withdraw Hungary’s voting rights.
Most recently, the EU had put pressure on Hungary by withholding due subsidies from the Corona fund, for example. The reason is the danger that the money will disappear into dark channels. But Orban needs the funds to keep his expensive campaign promises. It is assumed that the prime minister simply wanted to free the necessary billions with his blockade. If that was his plan, it has not succeeded.
Hungary may also have to do without money because of the new EU rule of law mechanism, since such a procedure is currently underway. The mechanism has been in place since early 2021 and is the first direct link between EU funds and EU fundamental values such as the rule of law.
It is an instrument for reducing funds from the EU budget if the rule of law no longer works in a member state and there is therefore a risk that EU funds will be misappropriated or wasted – for example through corruption.
The European Council must approve the application of the mechanism by a qualified majority. Qualified majority means: 55 percent of the member states, which together make up at least 65 percent of the total population of the EU.
However, the supposedly simplest solution would be to abolish the unanimity principle in the EU. This is a demand that, in view of the Hungarian blockades, is now gaining more and more approval from the other states. However, there is a catch to this idea: this too can only be done unanimously.
Equally popular is the demand to simply throw Hungary out of the EU. Such a step is simply not provided for in the treaties. The objection that contracts can also be changed. is entitled. But the same applies here: Such a decision can only be made unanimously.