Hungary’s continued development toward autocracy prompts challenges for the EU

October 31, 2022

The European Parliament recently passed a motion concluding that Hungary can no longer be considered a democracy. The breakdown in the rule of law and fundamental rights has made the country a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”. Hungary’s ruling government, it concluded, was to blame for this democratic backsliding.

As a result, the European Commission has recommended suspending 7.5 billion euros in funding allocated to Hungary through a mechanism specifically created to prevent further democratic backsliding by countries like Hungary and Poland. For the past decade, these two countries have formed an illiberal partnership, each vetoing any significant penalties the EU meant to impose on the other. 

Having a non-democratic member poses two distinct problems for the EU. Firstly, internally, it impedes unity and solidarity between member states, which, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have been at an all-time high. This solidarity will be crucial to successfully dealing with the upcoming energy and economic crisis. Besides Hungary, the decision may alienate other countries sympathetic to populist or nationalist ideals as well.

Externally, not being a union of exclusive democracies will hurt Europe's normative power internationally. In its foreign policy, the EU has long tried to promote values such as democracy, liberty and human rights. Much of this promotion has been through leading by example rather than coercion. Having a member which clearly breaches the EU founding values will inevitably diminish the EU’s ability to prescribe them to others.  

Burning questions:
  • In a world where the number of democracies has been falling for almost a decade, how significant will the decrease in European normative power be?
  • A differing stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine significantly strained the Polish-Hungarian relationship. Will this decision bring them closer together again?
  • Among the countries in the Visegrad group, political divergence has increased substantially. Could this development signal the end of the power block?

Series 'AI Metaphors'

1. The Tool
Category: Objects
Humans shape tools.

We make them part of our body while we melt their essence with our intentions. They require some finesse to use but they never fool us or trick us. Humans use tools, tools never use humans.

We are the masters determining their course, integrating them gracefully into the minutiae of our everyday lives. Immovable and unyielding, they remain reliant on our guidance, devoid of desire and intent, they remain exactly where we leave them, their functionality unchanging over time.

We retain the ultimate authority, able to discard them at will or, in today's context, simply power them down. Though they may occasionally foster irritation, largely they stand steadfast, loyal allies in our daily toils.

Thus we place our faith in tools, acknowledging that they are mere reflections of our own capabilities. In them, there is no entity to venerate or fault but ourselves, for they are but inert extensions of our own being, inanimate and steadfast, awaiting our command.
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2. The Machine
Category: Objects
Unlike a mere tool, the machine does not need the guidance of our hand, operating autonomously through its intricate network of gears and wheels. It achieves feats of motion that surpass the wildest human imaginations, harboring a power reminiscent of a cavalry of horses. Though it demands maintenance to replace broken parts and fix malfunctions, it mostly acts independently, allowing us to retreat and become mere observers to its diligent performance. We interact with it through buttons and handles, guiding its operations with minor adjustments and feedback as it works tirelessly. Embodying relentless purpose, laboring in a cycle of infinite repetition, the machine is a testament to human ingenuity manifested in metal and motion.
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