This is what they say – Hungary in the international press
Thursday, 15 December 2011 17:10
Hungary: central bank under fire
Christmas may be approaching, but there seems to be no thought of peace unto all men in the Hungarian parliament, with the government of prime minister Viktor Orban proposing what opponents see as yet more divisive legislation designed to expand government influence over independent institutions.
Right now it’s the turn of the central bank – again. Not content with expanding the monetary council this year by four parliament-appointed – Orban-friendly – members, the government has proposed a bill which would allow the prime minister the right to appoint the future governor and three, instead of the current two, vice-governors.
Democracy in Hungary: Ring the alarm
Hungary is beeping ever louder on Washington's radar. Budapest’s chattering classes are this week dissecting a pointed opinion article by Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, the US ambassador, published in Heti Valász, a moderate conservative weekly.
In her piece the ambassador urges Hungary's ruling Fidesz party to consider the consequences of its centralising reforms. Her main concern is the "cardinal laws"—which can only be changed by a two-thirds majority in parliament—that the government is seeking to write into the constitution.
Ms Kounalakis notes that Fidesz won power in a free and fair election last year, and says that Hungary is a friend of the United States. But however delicately phrased, her article is just the latest in a series of public warnings from Washington to Hungary. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, expressed her concerns in June during a visit to Budapest. She called for "a real commitment to the independence of the judiciary, a free press, and governmental transparency".
Paul Krugman: Depression and Democracy
It’s not clear what can be done about Hungary’s authoritarian slide. The U.S. State Department, to its credit, has been very much on the case, but this is essentially a European matter. The European Union missed the chance to head off the power grab at the start — in part because the new Constitution was rammed through while Hungary held the Union’s rotating presidency. It will be much harder to reverse the slide now. Yet Europe’s leaders had better try, or risk losing everything they stand for.
Charles Gáti: Hungary’s Backward Slide
After its decisive victory at the polls in mid-2010, the party seemed on top of the world. The 52.7 percent of the vote it received translated into a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Orban has since turned Hungarian politics and economics upside down. Appealing to age-old nationalist suspicions, government propaganda has come to compare Western banks to Soviet tanks and Brussels to Moscow, while rather lame and much too infrequent criticism from Washington or Berlin is angrily rejected as interference in domestic affairs.
Official Hungary is imagined to be an island surrounded by foreign enemies. Orban, though heading a country that is a member of both the E.U. and NATO, keeps assuring domestic audiences that the West is in terminal decline.
The new basic law, or constitution, entering into force Jan. 1 draws on a golden age of Hungarian history that never was, echoing the professed values of the old Kingdom of Hungary. More dangerously, Parliament has curtailed the power of the Constitutional Court while it has created several councils that could override Parliament in case the current government loses its majority; members of these councils are to serve nine-year terms. The new media law is not only restrictive; it has also reawakened the old self-censorship that helps reporters and editors stay employed and news outlets stay in business.
Hungary's Leader Seeks to Fast-Track Pact Talks
Mr. Orban was one of four prime ministers at last week's summit who didn't immediately sign up for the negotiations, arguing that an agreement would affect national powers and so must first be discussed by Hungary's parliament.
The country is an EU member, but isn't in the euro zone. It joined Sweden and the Czech Republic, who are also outside the euro area, in deciding to discuss the euro-zone deal in national parliaments before joining the fiscal agreement. The U.K. said it won't agree to the creation of a new EU treaty because of concerns, among others, that the deal would limit the government's discretion over financial regulation.
"As long as the parliament doesn't discuss the matter, the government can't have a word about this," Mr. Orban told state news agency MTI Sunday.