Graham Watson: Orbán ‘enjoys playing the bad boy in the class’

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European political parties must act responsibly and not give cover for members of their own political parties, British MEP Graham Watson, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, tells EURACTIV.

MEP Graham Watson spoke to EURACTIV Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took advantage of the fact that the Commission can’t say anything at this stage on the controversial constitutional changes passed by his country’s parliament. By giving a press conference in the EU Council yesterday, he basically stole the show. What do you think will happen?

I think Viktor Orbán enjoys playing the bad boy in the class. But it is important that the other heads of state and government do not indulge him in this. Unless the European Union has a clear role and a clear approach to countries which take measures against the basic values of the European Union, then we will never have confidence in the future of the union.

We need the confidence of our citizens in the role of law and in the separation of powers, and what has happened in Hungary’s parliament has put both of those at risk.

What happens with Hungary is that they start a new constitution, or changes of the constitution. Then they say that they have introduced some sort of amendments to answer the concerns of the Commission. And then nothing happens. Do you think this scenario will be repeated?

That is my fear. I think what we are seeing is raw Hungarian nationalism. In the European Union, that kind of thing can no longer be possible, but what we require is the Commission to lay down a procedure for dealing with countries in this position.

Currently they have only the nuclear button of treaty actions and that is not enough. But what we also need to lay down is that European political parties must act responsibly and not simply give cover for members of their own political parties. There are things which have been done by Mr Berlusconi [of Italy] and Mr Borissov [of Bulgaria], Mr B?sescu [of Romania] and now by Mr Orbán, which never have been sanctioned and which have been possible only because of the political cover provided by their pals in the EPP [European People's Party].

The same is happening in Georgia. I’m referring to the EPP providing a blank check to President Saakashvili. What do you think?

Georgia is another example, although being outside the Union, it’s a slightly different case. I was not surprised that Prime Minister [Bidzina] Ivanishvili had to take a double-page advertisement in a Brussels newspaper this week to defend his position. The attacks on his government by the EPP have been beyond the balance of reason.

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