02 December 2022

We are Viktor Orbán

Excuse me, may I perhaps very briefly bring up the subject of Viktor Orbán and the crisis of democracy and the rule of law in the EU? No? Not interested at all? Can’t be bothered any more? Totally fed up with this nonsense? Stop whining, you say let the guy have his billions, get over it already?

If that’s how you see it, then rejoice: it looks as if you will get your way soon. Last Wednesday, the Commission announced that the anti-corruption reforms adopted and announced so far in Hungary are insufficient to restore trust that EU funds will be used in a correct and proper way, and therefore proposed to the Council to freeze at least part of these funds. For this to actually happen, however, the Council must adopt this proposal by qualified majority. And it looks like it won’t.

From what I hear and read, the German government, among others, is working tirelessly to ensure that this majority is not reached on Tuesday in the Ecofin Council. Together with France, Italy and others, Germany is said to want to accommodate Orbán in the hope that he will then be so kind as to stop blackmailing the Union with his veto of the aid package for Ukraine and the minimum taxation for multinationals, which are to be decided unanimously on Tuesday. The Commission should therefore please reconsider whether the Hungarian efforts made since November 19th can perhaps be found sufficient to allay its concerns after all.

Since the beginning of October, Kim Scheppele, Gábor Mészaros, Petra Bárd, Dan Kelemen and John Morijn have explained in detail and with great precision (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) why these so-called efforts must be seen as a rather clever window-dressing exercise at best. All these shiny new anti-corruption authorities and anti-corruption laws in Hungary are carefully designed to ensure that the fight against corruption only goes as far as the regime allows, and not an inch further, and I suppose it is safe to assume that Council, Commission, and Chancellery are all very well aware of all this by now. The corruption of Orbán’s regime is, after all, not (solely) the result of the personal character flaws of the officials involved, but a result of it being an authoritarian regime. As any authoritarian regime, to maintain its power, it is, in the absence of a functioning democracy, ultimately dependent on being able to buy the support of a sufficiently influential section of society by enriching it with public money, which, in the case of Hungary, mostly comes from the coffers of the EU. These transfer funds do not simply seep away because of negligent oversight at the hands of the government. They are what keeps that very government’s whole corrupt authoritarian regime alive in the first place.


Das Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht lädt in Kooperation mit der Württembergischen Landesbibliothek Stuttgart zu der Vortragsreihe „Ukraine?!- Völkerrecht am Ende?” ein. Am 06.12.2022, 18h, widmet sich Dr. Alexander Wentker der Frage „Wer wird Kriegspartei? Militärische Unterstützungsleistungen im politischen Diskurs und im Völkerrecht”

Informationen zum Programm und zur Teilnahme in der WLB gibt es hier.

Hier geht es zur Online-Teilnahme. 


All this is not new at all and has been well known for a long time, which is why the EU has created the so-called rule of law mechanism for itself two years ago, in order to finally defend itself effectively against rule-of-law backsliding on the member-state level. As is well known, it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who pushed through a compromise in December 2020 to make sure that the governments of Poland and Hungary would be sufficiently unafraid of that mechanism to drop their blackmailing budget veto. A great success it was for the German chancellor back then. Now we see the effects in all their beauty.

Times have changed, as they like to say in Berlin nowadays. The Chancellor is now called Olaf Scholz. But the Chancellory’s policy seems to have remained the same at its core: appeasement and diplomacy. The result of this policy is that it has become a by-and-large acceptable option for an EU member state to be run by an authoritarian regime. So, that’s where we are now: The blackmailer pockets his ransom, the EU transfers keep flowing, filling the pipelines of corruption in Hungary, feeding the tanks of the regime’s friends and supporters, pumping through the veins of its power. It is all of our money that is flowing. Viktor Orbán owes it all to us, our money, our cowardice, our calculation, our automobile industry, our Chancellor: us. We are Viktor Orbán.

The week on Verfassungsblog

… summarized by PAULINE SPATZ:

The Federal Constitutional Court has declared the so-called special needs level for single adults in collective accommodation unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, says MARJE MÜLDER.

The Bundestag has passed a so-called Opportunity Right of Residence (CAR) for persons without legal residency status who cannot be deported. ISABEL KIENZLE & RHEA NACHTIGALL take a critical look at the different deportation practices in the various federal states before the CAR coming into force and show what preliminary effects the CAR could already have.

The Bundestag has also approved the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada, CETA. THOMAS KÖLLER calls for guard rails and stop signs from the Federal Constitutional Court for governance by means of transnational committees.

Will investments by European companies in third countries soon be subject to sovereign investment control in the European Union? CHRISTOPH HERRMANN & TIM ELLEMANN believe that a fine adjustment will be needed to justify such an encroachment on economic freedom.

Due to the Hungarian government’s failure to constitute an effective anti-corruption plan, the European Commission recommends freezing large sums of the EU funds Hungary is to receive. KIM LANE SCHEPPELE, GÁBOR MÉSZÁROS & PETRA BÁRD discuss the two new laws the Hungarian government introduced to address the Commission’s concerns. JACOB ÖBERG joins the debate on whether Hungary should be required to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office as a condition to receive EU funds, suggesting that this would not be legally possible. And KIM LANE SCHEPPELE, R. DANIEL KELEMEN & JOHN MORIJN comment on the Commission’s actions and urge to Commission to act against the Hungarian government dumping the consequences of the cuts on the general population.

The European Commission also proposed the monitoring of Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism be terminated. DIANA DEHELEAN & SARAH OUŘEDNÍČKOVÁ comment on the Commission’s decision.


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Spanish politics are boiling over in the debate on the reform of the General Council for the Judiciary, leading to judges being called “machos” and “fascists”. ANTONIO ESTELLA DE NORIEGA  notes how little is known about the political inclinations of the judges in Spain.

This year’s UN Climate Change Conference was sobering. GRETA REEH gives an overview of the results that were nevertheless achieved and what can be learned from them for next year.

After 20 years, the Kiobel v Shell case comes to an end. LUCAS ROORDA discusses the case’s remarkable procedural history and argues that it illustrates the fundamental procedural unfairness between large corporations and victims trying to hold them to account.

Tunisia’s President declared a state of emergency and then changed the Tunisian Constitution, making himself an ‘omnipotent President’. PATRICK GARDINER  explains the constitutional background through a Schmittian perspective.

The Football World Cup in Qatar is but the tip of the iceberg of problems for UEFA/FIFA, says TOMASZ TADEUSZ KONCEWICZ. Yet, he argues, there is still a constitutional and discursive potential to push forward the discourse on the broken system of football governance.

Brazil’s electoral court has harshly fined Bolsonaro’s coalition for their attempted coup. While the judgment may be justifiable, it is also an expression of a dangerous feedback loop between courts and political forces, says GUSTAVO PALAMONE.

OHINIKO M. TOFFA & SARAH IMANI and YANN LEGALL & GWINYAI MACHONA kick off our new blog debate with ECCHR Berlin on Restitution, Colonialism and the Courts, pursuing the question: How can we achieve restorative justice through restitution?

That’s all for now. All the best, and see you next week!

Max Steinbeis

SUGGESTED CITATION  Steinbeis, Maximilian: We are Viktor Orbán, VerfBlog, 2022/12/02, https://verfassungsblog.de/we-are-viktor-orban/, DOI: 10.17176/20221203-001605-0.

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