Macron takes aim at Hungary, Poland in EP speechReading Time: 2 minutes
French President Emmanuel Macron singled out Hungary and Poland in connection with alleged rule of law violations as he outlined the priorities of France’s six-month rotating presidency that runs until the end of June.
Speaking at the European Parliament, Macron invoked “the three historic promises of post-war Europe – democracy, prosperity and peace”. However he struck a cautionary note, adding that: “We are discovering again today how the rule of law and democracy can become fragile.” Liberal democracies have shown how vibrant they could be in the throes of the pandemic, he added. Macron also discussed strengthening EU sovereignty and autonomy, defending its external borders, and relations with Russia.
In a speech Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh reminded Macron, sitting metres away, of Hungary and Poland’s use of Pegasus spyware to monitor journalists and political opponents. This scandal should be included in rule of law procedures against those two countries, she said. Another Hungarian MEP, Tamas Deutsch of the ruling Fidesz party accused Macron of using double standards by replacing national sovereignty with a European version.
In his term as EU president, Macron is expected to take rule of law breaches seriously, given his recent hard line against Orban. The EU will not send Hungary any Covid recovery payments due to the ongoing disputes on rule of law or discrimination issues, Macron said in Budapest late last month. When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed EU coronavirus recovery funds were being withheld from Hungary over an anti-LGBTQ+ law, Macron replied that corruption and public procurement were in fact the reason for the delay.
Macron has also called the rule of law “non-negotiable” for the EU and urged countries to work towards common European values. He called respect for democratic checks and balances an “existential struggle” for Europe and said France would emphasise “strong initiatives” for media freedom in the EU Council.