Viktor Orban may have created many headaches for the European Union and is likely to cause many more if Hungary’s isolation strengthens the self-justifying cries of nationalist-populists across the bloc.
It is quite possible, though, that the Hungarian prime minister may turn out to be a benefactor of the EU: His extremist policies and his unequivocal rejection of the principles of liberal democracy obliged a broad majority of parties in the European Parliament to take a clear stand in defense of the Union.
They adopted a motion in favor of invoking Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, which could lead to sanctions against Hungary for violating fundamental EU values.
At a time when many fear that European countries are sliding toward ever more nationalistic behavior, threatening the Union’s stability and cohesion, Orban, who has been in power for eight years, presents such a direct threat to the EU that he does not allow any political group to claim that it is unaware of the danger.
This has forced parties and politicians who might have some sympathy for at least some of Orban’s policies to unite against him. However dangerous this decision may prove, it is just as important that the European Parliament, with its elected members, should show that it will not allow the undermining of principles which form the basis for the prosperity of citizens and for cooperation among EU member-states.
Just as Hungary, Poland, Britain and any other nation has the right to declare its national sovereignty is above all else, so can the rest of the Union remind them that participation in the EU depends on principles and rules that each candidate country accepts and adopts before its accession.
If the citizens of a country want to leave the EU, then they accept that they will not have equal rights with those who remain. This is the essence of the current negotiations between the EU and Britain.
Taking a stand against the Hungarian government’s policies, the majority of European parties took a stand in defense of the EU.
It is most likely that this will strengthen extreme-right forces, mainly at the expense of conservative and centrist parties; it suggests that those who voted against Hungary have invested in fighting against those working toward the EU’s disintegration and will continue their battle.
The action against Hungary may look like a sad necessity, a sign of these difficult times. On the contrary, though, it allows the hope that the Europe which was built over the past decades, the Union which provided stability and prosperity to a blood-soaked continent and which provides the only hope for the future, is taking a stand against its enemies. At last.