Flemish PM’s meeting with Orban causes turmoil in Belgian politics

“It goes without saying that I will raise criticism of the rule of law and freedom of the press in my discussions,” Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) said regarding his controversial visit to Budapest, where he is set to meet Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

“I don’t understand the fuss about that. It does not make sense to establish in the European Parliament that there has been no improvement since the launch of Article 7 and then not to mention it if you are here on the spot,” he said, addressing the criticism.

Belgian parties N-VA, CD&V and Open VLD last month voted in favour of a European Parliament resolution, which acknowledged that there had been no tangible progress in Hungary since the monitoring of the rule of law had begun. 

Read also: European Parliament calls on member states to act on Poland and Hungary

“I want to hear what their line of defence is, including about freedom of the press and criticism of the rule of law,” Jambon added.

The Belgian opposition, which has sharply criticised the visit, is, not convinced by Jambon’s intentions.

Socialist SP.A filed an emergency resolution in the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday afternoon to force Jambon to address the issue of democracy and the rule of law with Hungary’s Prime Minister Orbán.

“The Flemish government is very light-hearted about this meeting,” Socialist MP Annick Lambrecht (SP.A) said.

“A meeting of Jambon with the man who, among other things, closes universities illegally, muzzles the press, makes his own family rich through corruption with European money and fuels anti-Semitism, is not business as usual,” she added.

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