Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Help EPP group leader Joseph Daul defend media freedom

The leader of the European People's Party group in the European Parliament had this to say on Facebook with regard to fundamental rights of EU citizens, especially the Hungarian media law:

Let's see what the Commission says after it has examined the law. You remember the Roma case ? The Commission concluded that there was no breach of Eau law. But very few reported about that decision. So if this law contains dispositions contrary to EU law or international conventions, it will be changed. Let's see. But don't be naive: it is not purely because of their preoccupation for the rights of the media that socialists, liberals and greens atrack an EPP government.

Selective memory

Despite the conspicuous lack of support for the Commission, with regard to the Roma issue, Daul forgot to mention that the European Commission dropped the threat of infringement procedures after the French government submitted detailed documentation to the Commission, including draft legislative measures and a credible calendar for putting the procedural safeguards required under the EU's Free Movement Directive into French legislation by early 2011. When the demolition instruction to target Roma camps had leaked, the government had hastened to change it. France is still under Commission scrutiny.

Party political arguments - whose?

Scores of media reports and blog posts about the contents of the Hungarian gag law have seemed unequivocal enough to allow for clear condemnation long before now.

How much is still unclear after an article such as Slugger O'Toole ”Draconian press laws in the EU's new Presidency” (1 January 2011)?

Is it possible, in good faith, to avoid the impression that Daul is procrastinating or worse?

I feel offended when Daul equates criticism of the Hungarian censorship law with party political schemes to discredit an EPP government. I try to base my evaluation of the actions of the EU institutions and political actors on principles, primarily the interests of the citizens of the EU.

If various Europarties come out differently, it is not necessarily my fault.

I hope that I could see the EPP as an active protagonist for free speech, but I wonder if Daul's argument can be seen to be exempt from party political bias and cronyism. (Various Hungarian government representatives have dismissed criticism as party politically motivated.)

For me the European Convention on Human Rigths (ECHR), the founding values of the European Union (Article 2 TEU), the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rigths of the European Union (Article 6 TEU) and the process to determine a serious breach of the founding values (Article 7 TEU) are the cornerstones of European integration and for the citizens of the European Union.

I would like to see the biggest Europarty, the EPP, taking the greatest responsibility for our basic values.

Dear readers, even if we are aware of the troubled history of the rule of law in France regarding freedom from political interference, please enlighten EPP group leader Joseph Daul about founding principles, non-discrimination and fundamental rights, as if the EU was intended to serve its citizens first.


Since the Treaty of Rome (1957), any discrimination on grounds of nationality is prohibited (now Article 18 TFEU).

Time enough for the basic principle of non-discrimination to sink in, methinks.

The Hungarian government of Viktor Orban is under fire for a number of controversial policies, including Commission scrutiny for alleged discrimination. According to the Wall Street Journal, thirteen large companies from France (Daul's country of origin, a founding member of the EEC), Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic complained to the EU Commission, saying Hungary is targeting "select sectors and foreign companies in particular, to balance the state budget."

You can comment on this blog, tweet @JosephDaul or comment on Daul's new year wishes on Facebook for 2011 to become a better year.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Swedish MEP Gunnar Hökmark has shown that high profile EPP members can take a principled approach, as he has done in his blog posts ”Det blev ett nytt år – om Ungern, Estland och Sarkozy” with regard to the media law and ”Dåliga signaler från EU:s ordförandeland” concerning discrimination. Respect.