But on Wednesday, that did take some action, as Jack Ewing and James Kanter report in European Union Gives Hungary an Ultimatum New York Times 01/12/2012:
Faced with what critics say is an alarming drift away from democracy by one of its members, the European Union gave the Hungarian government a final warning Wednesday that it would face the start of formal legal action by next Tuesday unless it modified a series of measures that threaten the balance of power in the country.The wording in that first paragraph is classical faux objectivtiy, though: "what critics say is an alarming drift away from democracy." They do get into more of the specifics. But our political press is just so wedded to that "this side says, the other side says" formula that they can barely tear themselves away from it even in cases like this where it's painfully obvious that they need to. For instance, that lede paragraph could have read something like this:
The unprecedented warning by the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, came in response to the passage of a new Constitution and a number of laws at the end of last year that remove checks and balances on the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in areas like central banking, the judiciary and the media. ...
Thorbjoern Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said by telephone on Wednesday that “there’s a real danger of Hungary going off the rails.” The council, based in Strasbourg, France, is responsible for enforcing the European Convention on Human Rights.
The escalating political confrontation with Hungary comes at a decidedly inconvenient time for Europe as well as for the government of Mr. Orban. The euro zone is struggling to survive a debt crisis while its economy slows markedly. But Hungary can ill afford to alienate its European Union partners when it is also heading into recession and negotiating for financial aid from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to avoid defaulting on its debt.
Faced with actions by the Hungarian government to restrict freedom of the press and religion, severely compromise the independence of the judiciary and rig electoral districts to retain the current ruling party in power indefinitely, the European Union gave the Hungarian government a final warning Wednesday that it would face the start of formal legal action by next Tuesday unless it modified a series of measures that threaten the basic democratic institutions of the country.Instead, they used as formula that reads more like this: Supporters of democracy say democracy is democracy; enemies of democracy say authoritarianism is democracy; opinions differ.
We'll see if the Angiefied EU will give their democratic priorities greater weight than Angie's austerity economics demands.
A key factor in the current situation is that Hungary is part of Angie's EU-26 (excluding Britain) that she expects to approve austerity treaties by March that, among other things, would give the "Merkel EU" ultimate authority over national budgets. If Hungary breaks ranks on that immediate demand, other countries would be more likely to bail, because then Hungary would be the bad guy of the situation. This surely gives Hungary some serious negotiating clout right now, e.g., lay off griping about our authoritarian new constitution, or we'll torpedo your austerity treaty.
Tags: angela merkel, eu, euro, european union, hungary