Krugman’s blog: Somewhere In Europe

[Photo: Géza Radványi: Somewhere in Europe, 1948: ]

[…] Orbán could reasonably doubt that Europe has the will to require Hungary to roll back its all-encompassing anti-democratic program. Even if Hungary changes its laws on the central bank, judiciary and data ombudsman, most of the autocratic structure that Orbán has built will remain in place.

Will Europe really have the stomach to require not only a change in the law on the judiciary, but also the reinstatement of all of the judges who have been fired? And would it do so in the face of a letter from the Hungarian Judges Association written on January 7, saying that all is fine with the judiciary in Hungary if only people will stop attacking it? (Never mind that the letter appeared after the law went into effect, so that now a Fidesz loyalist may demote any judge in the country upon her say-so alone.) […]

Will Europe make Fidesz roll back its appointments to the Constitutional Court and restore the ability of citizens to challenge laws in the abstract before the Court? (Never mind that major decisions of the Constitutional Court interpreting the old constitution have already been effectively overturned by the new constitution. Most recently, this includes a constitutional amendment that allows the public prosecutor to choose which judge hears each specific criminal case.)

Europe will have to do a lot more than demand small legal changes to reverse what has happened. The anti-democratic reforms have gone too far. This is a government that has passed nearly 400 major laws, changing virtually every aspect of government in Hungary. And all of those laws have all already gone into effect, so that Fidesz party control over all of Hungary’s political institutions is very nearly complete already. Right now, the EU is singling out three laws for revision. There are many more laws where those came from. And given that FIdesz has already managed to entrench its most loyal inner-circle members in positions of power across the government, most with very long terms of office, it can afford to roll back a few laws without seriously losing control. So fine – change a few laws! […]

Anyone who wades into the political space in Hungary can expect vilification in the media, false accusations and even not-so-veiled threats to any job or money they might have within the country. Hungarian politics is a bare-knuckled affair.

Will the Fidesz government succeed in convincing Europe that Hungary is still a European democracy so that it will get away simply changing a few laws?