The decision of the overwhelming majority of the European Parliament to launch punitive action against Hungary for violating the rule of law and the founding principles of the EU is at once a significant victory for the forces which support the values of European civilisation, and a significant defeat for the forces of National Populism.
The decision to launch punitive action against a member-state for violating the founding principles of the EU is unprecedented for European institutions. It is of symbolic significance in view of the forthcoming European Parliament elections, and the clash with forces which openly undermine the course of European unification.
The decision was triggered by the Orban government’s systematic violations of the independence of judicial independence, freedom of the press, and academic freedom, as well as corruption.
The decision is also a resounding message for other governments and politicians who seek to dominate the judiciary and the media.
Greece has its own experience. Government intervention may not be as extreme as Orban’s, but the burning desire of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government is to guide the judiciary and the press. We see it daily in the statements of ruling party cadres and in behind-the-scenes interventions, wherever and however they can.
It is clear that countries of the Eastern Bloc find it difficult to tolerate the values and traditions of liberal democracy.
Unfortunately, the same stands true for many cadres of the Greek Left, who believe that “bourgeois democracy” is a necessary evil, which they can barely tolerate.
Both the populist right-wing and the populist left-wing, from different starting points, do not believe in and are not persuaded by the values of liberal democracy. With different pretexts – migrants, refugees, economic problems, and globalisation – they harbour nationalist fixations and cultivate the citizens’ sense of fear and threats.
The strengthening of this current could not remain unanswered by the forces which continue to be inspired by solidarity and peaceful co-existence, regardless of race, gender, or cultural particularities.
The decision of the European Parliament is a significant and symbolic step in that direction.
Obviously, it does not suffice, but it signals the will to wage a tough fight with the forces of National Populism, which are rising in nearly all of Europe.