Here’s something you won’t see mentioned anywhere in the international press.
Last week, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, addressed an ordinary session of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly. His address covered a wide range of issues but also made specific reference to Hungary and issues “related to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the judiciary.” Here’s what he had to say:
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Source: coe.int
"You remember the harsh criticism raised by the international community about the new constitution and the process of forming it, particularly those items related to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the judiciary. The European Union reacted very strongly against this, but it found out that it did not have the legal competence to intervene, and therefore President Barroso in the European Parliament said that this is for the Council of Europe. We therefore opened a dialogue with the Hungarian authorities. Today I can say that the laws on the media and the judiciary that were so heavily criticised have now been amended, and we are satisfied with that.
There were a number of further issues and I asked the Venice Commission to look into them. It came up with a recommendation in the June Session. Afterwards, Foreign Minister Martonyi of Hungary wrote to me saying the Hungarians would like to co-operate with us on the Venice Commission recommendations, and we agreed to meet in New York last week. We did so, and we are also on track with the remaining issues. A number of criticisms can still be made, of course, but the Hungarians have gone a long way in correcting much of the legislation that the international community has so heavily criticised.”
As I’ve written before (here and here), the government of Hungary has demonstrated a number of times that when criticism is based on facts that argue concretely how Hungary’s new laws are at odds with European law and practice, we are ready to make changes. Secretary General Jagland says to too.
So when it comes to the European Commission and the Council of Europe, the only European institutions with the legitimate authority to address such issues, these things are being resolved. But as we get closer to the elections of 2014, both Hungarian and European Parliament elections, I don’t expect we’ve heard the last from the politically motivated critics.