Sunday, 9 January 2011

Geographical Values

There's a new blog over at Blogactiv - "EUphobia", which has the tagline: "The Unofficial Troll Blog of the Hungarian Presidency". In its first blog post, The Party has Started, EUphobia doesn't defend the Hungarian media law (rather the opposite), but does defend the Hungarian government, comparing it to the previous government: while the laws may not be good, the argument runs, at least its better than the disregard the previous government had to laws and rights. In the comments section there is a discussion that touches on the political leanings of the EU and whether its values are "Western European values".

A part of the post which I found worrying was:

"Another important point is how to “purge” Hungarian media and state offices from the socialist plague?


Communism, national socialism and socialism are the same sort of ideological infections and should be quarantined. Comments reflecting these ideologies will be strictly deleted."

That's not to say that there aren't abuses in the media in Hungary at present (I don't know enough about the previous government and its relations with the media to comment), but if their political colour (the focus on socialism) is the popular rallying cry behind taking action, it does raise concerns.

I posted this comment (awaiting moderation at the time of writing):

"The EU is definitely not left leaning - the EPP have been in the majority in most of the institutions since 2004. I think that the values aren’t a left-right issue (though more specific political ideas and values clearly are), and that they are a part of most of the political parties at a European and national level. One of the worrying aspects of this (apart from the law itself), is the relevation of what seem to be the terms of the debate within Hungary. The last government was undoubtedly rotten, but the extent of the demonisation of anything approaching opposition is troubling - your own mention of “purging” adds to the impression that the whole thing is based on tribalistic party politics rather than any positive values of the Fidesz party itself. Which in turn raises worries about how the vague media law will be applied.

European values are indeed patchily applied, and Hungary is the focus at the moment because it is caught in a perfect storm of a bad law coming into force, mixed with worryingly tribalistic-sounding politics, and its assumption of a high-profile European post (even if the profile of the rotating presidency has fallen after the Lisbon Treaty). The EU is ill equiped to deal with rights issues within Member States - human rights is a ECHR/Council of Europe issue more than an EU one. It seems that rights issues are increasingly important in the EU - it could be a sign of how EU countries are growing closer together, with citizens taking more interest in rights issues in other Member States - as can be seen from the Roma crisis.

I certainly hope that “European values” are ones that Eastern Europe can ascribe to as well as Western Europe - after all, all the EU Member States, East and West, have signed up to these values in the EU Treaties, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in joining the Council of Europe. Applying pressure and scrutiny to countries is, however, not very equal - as the EU isn’t well equiped to deal with such questions, power and state size become bigger issues in how countries are treated. There is the nuclear option of suspending a country’s voting rights, but this is unlikely to be used.

Past lapses in applying standards cannot be used as an excuse not to apply or aspire to such standards now. A wider issue how should the EU deal with these questions.

On the other hand, if it’s not a question of unequal application and Eastern Europe does have different values to Western Europe - what are they?"

How should the EU deal with values in the Member States, and does Eastern Europe really have different values (and, if so, what are they?), or is it more an issue of unequal application of principles?


  1. It's interesting as if you ask some people on the right you'll be told quite firmly (with real bile in some cases) that the EU is a banner and experiment of the left.

    I suppose it depends on your viewpoint, if you're an EUphobe you'll come to any reason to justify your point of view: just look at some of the UK papers, they just make things up to make a point about Europe.

  2. I don't think that the EU is primarily a project of the right or left, but it has become more majoritiarian over the past decade, and there should be some attention paid to which party is in the leading position in each institution.

    As a general point, I think the EU tends towards centrist outcomes (so it's currently centre-right), because there needs to be a supermajority in the Council to pass legislation. Though historically there could be arguments for the EU being left or right wing - environmental legislation and some employment legislation being left-wing, while the ideology of opening up markets and liberalising them (right-wing) has underpinned a lot of what the EU has done in the past - the single market is a big example.

    With all the bile that surrounds the question, it's disappointing that left-right questions are rarely put to MEP candidates... It's strange that so many people confuse the argument against policies with the mechanism for setting any policies.

  3. Eurocentric,

    Actually it is hard to know if the new blog is more Presidency than Troll, or vice versa, because of the confused arguments.