The “political strategy” to attack the Hungarian government over its response measures to the novel coronavirus epidemic “works against a strong and unified Europe”, Justice Minister Judit Varga wrote in an op-ed for Brussels-based news portal Euractiv.
The minister noted that Vera Jourova, the European Commission’s vice-president in charge of transparency and values, confirmed last month that the commission had no grounds on which to launch an infringement procedure against Hungary over its epidemic response law.
Varga added, however, that Jourova’s use of the word “yet” regarding the decision not to take legal action against Hungary made a “mockery” of the principle of the equal treatment of European Union member states. “The Commission either initiates an infringement procedure or it does not. There is no third way …” she argued, adding that Hungary was an exception to this because “the presumption of guilt continues to be applied” in its case.
The minister said it had taken “courage” from Jourova “to say no” to legal action against Hungary. “But some just refuse to take no for an answer,” Varga said in reference to those who had “built the image of an enemy out of Hungary”, claiming that it did not respect the bloc’s fundamental rights.
“The values that are self-evident and common to us have become a political tool,” Varga wrote. “Abused, they create division instead of unity.”
She suggested that the “blatant double standards” applied to Hungary suggested that the “real issue” was not about the EU’s fundamental values, but rather about deepening divisions within the bloc ahead of the real start of negotiations on the next seven-year budget. The minister speculated that the “actual objective” was to put pressure on member states “that are, probably by mere coincidence, also the ones who are projected to suffer in relative terms the most significant cuts under the current budgetary proposals”.
Because the most severe budget cuts go against the main objective of cohesion, Varga said, “such proposals are impossible to defend from an economic or even moral point of view”. Hence the need to “demonise” the targeted member states, she added.