Prominent members of the European Parliament reacted angrily over the weekend to calls by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to roll back the powers of the EU assembly.
“Only those who do not like democracy think of dismantling parliaments,” David Sassoli, the EP’s president posted on Twitter.
In a speech Saturday, Orbán called for rules to allow national parliaments to suspend the EU’s legislative process, if they find national competences have been infringed.
His calls to disempower the European Parliament came in a speech in which he said the EU’s newly launched Conference on the Future of Europe should be used to stop what he termed the “Sovietization” of the bloc.
“We want a democracy of democracies based on European nations,” Orbán said in a speech to mark 30 years since the departure of Soviet troops from Hungary. “We are nationally based democrats against empire-builders,” he claimed, according to the Infostart news site.
His speech also called for the term “ever closer union” to be deleted from the Treaty on European Union.
Orbán regularly rails against the EU and European lawmakers are a favored target. In 2018, they triggered the EU’s Article 7 disciplinary procedure against Hungary, arguing Orbán’s government had damaged judicial independence, engaged in corruption, restricted freedom of expression and infringed minority and migrant rights, among other concerns.
“So Viktor Orbán wants to tie the hands of the European Parliament, like he already did with the Hungarian one, and free media, and courts and NGO’s and academics, and, and, and …” tweeted Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian Prime Minister.
“There is a pattern, and it leads all the way to a Putinesque dictatorship,” added Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chair on the executive board of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which held its first plenary session Saturday.
Orbán’s government again clashed with the EU last week, after Hungary’s parliament approved a law banning the portrayal of homosexuality to under-18s.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally issued a rare rebuke, saying she was “very concerned” about the new law and adding that the Commission was “assessing if it breaches relevant EU legislation.”
“I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity, not one which hides it from our children,” she wrote.