Tag Archives: Hungary

The history of EU Article 7: time to apply it to Hungary or not yet?


After the “wall of shame” built by Hungarian Prime Minister Orban to stop refugees coming from the Middle East today the increasing frightened Hungarian parliament passed a law allowing the army to use rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and net guns against refugees. The new law will allow soldiers to be sent to help police manage the refugee crisis, carrying out many of the same tasks such as checking ID, detaining suspects and controlling the flow of traffic at the borders. Recently Orban declared: “those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity…..Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian?”

Is this too much all this actions and declarations for a European country and leader or not yet? Do they represent a violation of the fundamental values of European Union or are they just a security issue of a sovereign state and sentences of an innocuous “dictator”, as the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently called him? To discern this issue is not easy but we can look at some instruments that the EU has to protect itself from ‘democratically elected undemocratic governments’. One of this tool is the Article 7, the so called “Austria lex”. Let’s see what it is and how it born.

In 2000 there was no mechanism for ensuring that all the countries that were already a EU member state were in compliance with the Copenhagen criteria laid down at the June 1993 European Council, among which the political criteria: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. Therefore special arrangements had been put in place in that year, some type of “sanctions”, imposed by the other 14 EU Member States’ governments against the Austrian government of Wolfgang Schüssel, who had made a coalition including Jörg Haider’s extreme right party. The informal/unofficial sanctions, based on ceasing cooperation, refusing basic social interaction and keeping unavoidable contacts to the legally required minimum, didn’t block the government from keep working though. The Schussel government went on until 2006 with a second mandate again in alliance with Haider’s party.

In response to the failed sanctions against Austria the EU Treaty of Nice in 2001 adopted formal rules for the application of sanctions against a Member State. The Treaty of Nice amended the Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Rome, reformed the institutional structure of the European Union to withstand eastward expansion and established also formal rules for the application of sanctions against a Member State: the so called “Lex Austria”. The Lex Austria therefore is a political sanction according to which the member states can lose their voting rights if the other EU countries find that they have breached human rights. The law is repeated in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 but is extended to situations when there is a “clear risk of a serious breach” by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. This new paragraph added with the Lisbon Treaty therefore enables a prevention mechanism aiming at facilitating EU intervention before the breaches actually occur.
But what are the values of Article 2? Article 2 recites: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”. Therefore if Hungary is considered to violate values of respect of human dignity and human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, can be called accountable. Two questions remain in place though: what is the limit for an action to be considered as serious breach? And what about non-citizens, are immigrant minorities considered at the same level of citizens minorities?

We don’t know yet what will be but for sure the European Parliament started already to reflect again on Hungarian’s behavior. This is the second time and may be could be the right one. The first time the European Parliament in July 2013 adopted a resolution calling on Hungary to reform its Constitution and change policies to bring it in line with EU norms and values. But at that time it didn’t work. Now may be is the right time. Actually a motion for a new resolution has been passed already last June, against Orban and its interest in debating a potential re-establishment of the death penalty in Hungary and new policies on migration.
At a time of economic and identity crisis the EU hast to recuperate its unity and not increase its divisions and it has to fight against any germ of populism, racism, xenophobia and dictatorship. This could be a good occasion. As Slavoj Zizek recently wisely said, “Europe will have to reassert its full commitment to provide means for the dignified survival of the refugees” besides “organize itself and impose clear rules and regulations” (see: http://inthesetimes.com/article/18385/slavoj-zizek-european-refugee-crisis-and-global-capitalism)

Sources for information about Article 7:

Thank you Germany to show the obligation of ethics. The migrant’s flow that is changing the face of Europe.


The migrants that arrive alive to the shores of our south European countries or jump the fences erected in Central-Eastern Europe, represents the biggest exodus of people after WWII in Europe and are changing the face, and soon also the policies, of the continent. Europe in one century will be like the United States: a land of immigrants. Refugees and economic migrants arriving in hundreds of thousands, and in the future probably in millions, will not be stopped by the fences that Hungary is building on the 110 miles of border with Serbia (anyway soon Croatia will be also in the Schengen area). These migrants will not be fend off by the racist attitudes that a a nationalist conservative prime minister of a landlocked country is trying to create in Europe (looking to the fortresses of the past instead of to the bridges of the future). These immigrants on the opposite will be welcome by the European values of tolerance, democracy and universalism, that today are stronger than its fears. Neither economic depressions nor fear of invasions will make us Europeans to go back to the barbarity of nationalism, fascism and nazism. And exactly the best part of Germany, both with its leadership and its people, showed to Europe and the world in these days what it means the Kantian duty of ethics. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, foresaw a “perpetual peace” based not only on republicanism and federalism but on “universal hospitality”: this is what all Europe, with Germany in the first row, today has to show. German people experienced on their skin what does it mean to be refugee after WWII and so they have to fight against the xenophobia that is present in some part of the population and right wing party (like in Austria, that today also showed its best part with the caravan of cars going to Hungary to pick up the refugees). Ms Merkel said it well: there has to be zero tolerance for hate and xenophobia.

But there is more than fight between tolerance and racism in this epochal change. In the same way as the internal migration among European states created what is today the European culture, maintaining the diversity of each country but also integrating them in a common identity, the people from the Maghreb, the Levant of Middle East and farther, will create a Euro-Mediterranean identity based also on South and Southeastern peripheries of the continent (like Russian people will do with the Eastern periphery). Even if European institutions don’t want to expand yet to its southeast border (first of all Turkey) people will create naturally a European enlargement decades before the European Union will expand. It is a normal and natural process, as migrations cannot be blocked, neither with walls nor with fears, in particular if they are the result of wars that Europe didn’t want to stop or that even facilitated. And here we come to the third effect of these migrations: they will not change only the face of the continent but they will also modify its institutions and its policies, both foreign and internal policies.

Europe cannot escape anymore from its own responsibilities in keeping the Middle East and Africa backwards and in constant conflict, from centuries of colonialism to the current Western wars and arms trade. From the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the Syrian proxy war and Libyan military intervention, the EU, guided by the US, is looking today at the effects of its recent actions. These effects don’t remain anymore only in the region (keeping the Middle East exceptionalism in the failure of democracy and development) but arrives to our own territories with the migratory event, with its security, economic, social and cultural consequences. Therefore our governments cannot play anymore with the fire hiding the hand: they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this will put foreign policies into question. Germany is the less involved in these failed foreign policies (it opposed strongly Iraq war and Libyan intervention for example) and at the same time is the country that assumes more responsibility. Sure, also because its growing economy and markets need worker and citizens with a new drive of building a better life, but also because if Germany wants to become the real leader of European integration it has to do it with legitimacy and ethics. Anyway Germany cannot be the only one to take the burden of the crisis on its shoulders, and the costs but also the benefits of millions of migrants (that will sustain an ageing continent and its pensions system) will have to be shared. Even if the UK is obviously the less affected by the migratory crisis it is the main responsible for the Middle East situation, and so together with the US will have to assume its responsibility too. Cameron said that UK has the most migrants of all the European nations, but forgot to say that (a part one million of polish coming during Blair era) these migrants mostly came from the Commonwealth, so were not refugees in needs of help but almost English citizens already.

Therefore this crisis will shake and change Europe and will make the continent to think twice in the future also on its foreign policy, and may be a sustainable, development oriented, foreign policy in the outskirts of the continent will see the light sooner or later. As we did for the ex-Yugoslavia we need to help these populations to not become refugees, and the refugees that are in neighboring countries to be protected and helped. Also, this crisis already changed the Dublin rule that asylum seekers are required to claim a refuge in the first EU state they arrive in, but will also make Europe think to more internal integration, less frontiers and a real European citizenship for the future. So migrations, and in general the elements of globalization, are having strong effects on state sovereignty: the modern countries have to rethink their integration and citizenship policies based on new realities of nation states, member states and federal states.

Thank you Germany, this time you showed what does it mean to be a great power, a great democracy and a great leader: it takes “power and morality”, as Edward Carr would have said. An ethical and not authoritarian leader is what we need for a new Europe. Look and learn UK: forza European democracy and integration.