Tamas Deutsch: The EU needs to put the citizens at top of the agenda

Eastern and Western European countries have a different historical background: Western Europeans had colonies in the past and partly because of this they have a different approach to migration. Deciding with whom they want to live is the right of a country and its people, this is not EU competence. If Western European countries want to force their immigration-friendly stance on Eastern European countries, this is likely to escalate tensions between the two parts of Europe, says Tamas Deutsch, Hungarian MEP, EPP, in an interview to Europost.

Mr Deutsch, were you surprised that the EP adopted a report that accuses Hungary of systematic disregard of democratic values and suggests triggering Article 7 of the TEU against your country?

 Basically, this report was not written and voted because of the alleged systematic disregard of democratic values but rather because of Hungary's different views on migration. Hungary is being punished for its firm stance on migration, this is what the ongoing debate is really about.

The report and the way it was adopted proves that Brussels' current leaders and the majority of MEPs are still in favour of migration and this is the reason the parliamentarians disregarded the factual errors in the report, even though PM Orban drew attention to these falsehoods and the Hungarian Government sent to all MEPs a more than hundred page long rebuttal of the report's factual mistakes. Out of the 69 statements in the report, 37 are false, 19 are the subject of an ongoing debate with the Commission and 13 statements are issues which have already been closed.

Why do you think that the counting of the cast votes was invalid, as you tweeted immediately when the results were announced? Afterwards there were also statements from officials in Budapest in this respect.

Article 354 of the TEU stipulates that “For the purposes of Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union, the European Parliament shall act by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast, representing the majority of its component Members.”

The number of votes cast was 693, the votes in favour were 448 - a two-thirds majority would have been 462.

The EPP Group has been firm in stating that abstentions count as votes cast, it was the Legal Service of the Parliament which overwrote this.

Especially in a procedure intended to scrutinise the respect of rule of law in a Member State, the Legal Service cannot formulate an opinion which is not compliant with the Treaties. This seriously undermines the credibility of the European Parliament.

There were many 'rebels' across the political spectrum that gave thumbs down to the report, abstained or didn't vote, including MEPs from EPP, but others changed their mind since the last year vote and supported it. What is your comment on this?

I can only refer to my previous answer. This report and debate is basically about migration. Hungary did not and will not give in on this issue and this provokes the anger of many EPP Members as well.

Analysing the vote outcome, can you see indications of a deepening division between East and West in the Union, as some observers assert?

Eastern and Western European countries have a different historical background: Western Europeans had colonies in the past and partly because of this they have a different approach to migration. Deciding with whom they want to live is the right of a country and its people, this is not EU competence. If Western European countries want to force their immigration-friendly stance on Eastern European countries, this is likely to escalate tensions between the two parts of Europe.

After this vote, did the Europhile sentiment of the Hungarian people change somehow?

Hungary is a pro-European country and its citizens voted in favour of the EU before the country's accession. In this year's general elections, two-thirds of Hungarians voted for the current government. Last week's vote in the EP, however, was a sign of mistrust and lack of respect for the will of the citizens expressed clearly in the elections. This lack of trust and respect from the European Parliament towards the lawfully elected Hungarian Government is unlikely to nurture good feelings about the EU in Hungary.

I also have to point out that the fact that the EP adopted a report which is full of falsehoods and incorrect statements greatly undermines the credibility of the Parliament and the EU institutions in general and gives the impression that the Parliament has absolutely no idea about reality.

What is the problem with the Roma community in your country? Last weekend in Brussels, at the traditional Hungarian festival, the Roma culture, crafts, businesses were presented as well, and there wasn't any sign of tension.

Let me recall that Hungary is the only Member State which has a female Roma Member in the European Parliament - Livia Jaroka from Fidesz who is also Vice President of the EP and was responsible for elaborating the EU's Roma Strategy.

Hungary has a considerable Roma population and the Government does its best to lift them out of poverty and support their full integration into society.

On the other pressing issue in the report, why is it so important for the Hungarian authorities to know where NGOs are financed from?

The Act on Non-governmental organisations does not prohibit funding from abroad and it does not aggravate the operation of NGOs, it merely makes foreign funding transparent. I have to add that the EU legislator applies similar rules with a view to enhance transparency at EU level, for example Regulation 1141/2014, the Commission's proposal for Interinstitutional Agreement on a Mandatory Transparency Register.

Why the Central European University in Budapest can no longer award a US diploma and is this allowed in other EU countries?

The activity of foreign higher education institutions is subject to two conditions: a bilateral agreement and actual education activity by the applicant in its home country. The goal of the 2016 revision of the law was to ensure that only high quality foreign institutions operate in Hungary. Many Member States have special legal requirements for higher education institutions and actually much stricter rules than the Hungarian law, such as Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Greece, the Czech Republic and some parts of Germany.

What would be your answer to some voices close to your political family in the EP that suggest Fidesz should leave the EPP?

Fidesz is part of European People's Party and will not leave it. However, we believe EPP needs to be reformed if it wants to succeed at next May's European elections. Fidesz is of the view that EPP would need to switch from its migration-friendly approach to standing up for strict border control and no tolerance for illegal immigration. We want to stay in EPP and fight for this change.

If Article 7 is invoked by the Council, is it possible for Hungary to change its stance on migration or the country will insist for the right to decide whom to allow to come on its soil?

The invocation of Article 7 requires unanimity in the Council and this is highly unlikely to be achieved.

What are your ideas for the future of Europe and with what thoughts are you preparing for the forthcoming European elections?

The current Brussels elite has completely lost touch with reality, with the real concerns of European citizens and their problems. Recent election results as well as surveys show that citizens start to have enough of this.

I believe the EU needs a Parliament and Commission which give real answers to citizens' real concerns. No Member State dared to ask its citizens' view about, for example, migration.

The EU needs a Parliament and Commission which protect European citizens, efficiently control borders, halt migration and put the citizens at top of the agenda.

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Tamas Deutsch is a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament from the European People's Party (EPP) since 2009. He is founding member of Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Alliance. In the European Parliament he is sitting in the Committee on Budgetary Control and the Committee on Regional Development. In parallel, he is a member of the Delegation for relations with Israel and the Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean, and serves as substitute in the Committee on Budgets, Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and the Delegation for relations with the United States. From 2004 to 2006 Mr Deutsch has been Vice-President of the Hungarian Parliament, whose member he has been from 1990 to 2009. In the period 1999-2002 he has been Minister for Youth and Sport.

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