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 Full text 
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Recent political developments in Hungary (debate)

  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I must be dreaming, because apparently public opinion in the whole of Europe has a headache. According to all the European newspapers, both right- and left-wing, there is a problem in Hungary. Yet here, the Hungarian Prime Minister and this Parliament’s right wing are telling us that there is no problem in Hungary. We must be completely schizophrenic.

Let me put this simply: the European Union is not a doormat for people to wipe their feet on. It is a shared home that we are building together, Mr Orbán. Yesterday, in Hungary you issued a press release in which you said, ‘I am going to go to Strasbourg to defend Hungary’s honour against attacks from the international and European left’. Let me tell you this: Hilary Clinton belongs to the European left; Angela Merkel belongs to the European left; Alain Juppé belongs to the European left; so welcome to the club! What is going on in this debate is purely for show, in my opinion.

Mr Orbán, you come here and you tell us that you have done all you can to change the constitution, which was a Stalinist constitution; and Mr Daul, your party’s spokesperson in this House, tells us that it was a Stalinist constitution. This means that this whole Parliament, including you and the whole lot of us, are utterly crazy, because we admitted a country with a Stalinist constitution into the European Union. You are completely crazy! It is not possible. How can you have done this? Shame on us!

However, Mr Orbán, at the time when you, together with your country and your party were about to become part of the European Union, I did not once hear the conservatives say, ‘wait until we change the Stalinist constitution before we go into the EU’. I never heard that. So why not stop this nonsense.

It is true that the country is taking a new direction. However, when you say new direction, this could mean the right direction or the wrong direction. We are here to tell you that you are going in the direction of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and all the other totalitarian and authoritarian governments of this world that we all fight against, together with you; only you are not strong enough to fight when it comes to Mr Orbán.

I will give you three examples that affect me personally. The Mayor of Budapest, who belongs to the same party as Mr Orbán, has just appointed as a theatre director in Budapest a person who not only has contacts with the extreme right, but also a long history of antisemitism, and claims to be part of a group of Hungarian intellectuals of whom Viktor Orbán, when he was plain ‘Viktor’, said on leaving a theatre: ‘we will never support this intellectual’s nationalistic, antisemitic attitude in Hungary’. And now, these people are being brought back into the mainstream, with the Fidesz party’s approval.

If you disagree with me, let me suggest a very simple solution: let us follow Guy Verhofstadt’s suggestion and send a delegation via the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, under Article 7 of the Treaty, to find out why homeless people in Hungary are afraid; why intellectuals are afraid; why people from my family and other Jewish people I know in Hungary are afraid today; and why the spirit of your new constitution is that of a Hungary of the past, which frightens many Hungarian citizens. You may have a majority, but the minorities have the right to live in your country without fear, Mr Orbán. Therefore, if you are so sure of yourselves, and sure there are no problems with Hungary’s democracy, we should make use of Article 7, and see what kind of report comes back. If you are right, I will apologise; and if you are wrong, I will ask you to apologise to me, my conservative fellow Members, because if we are strong, we will even fight our own families if we have to, for the sake of freedom and democracy. It is easy to say that it is always other people, but when it is one’s own family that goes off the rails, it is the courage of those who fight for freedom that stands out, not that of collaborators.

(Loud applause)

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

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