Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday he found it “funny” that the European Parliament had passed a report calling his country an “electoral autocracy.”
“I find it funny,” Orbán said during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia’s capital.
“The only reason we don’t laugh at it is because we’re bored of it. It’s a boring joke. It’s the third or fourth time they’ve passed a resolution condemning Hungary in the European Parliament. At first, we thought it was significant. But now we see it as a joke.”
Orbán’s comments came a day after MEPs approved by a wide margin a non-binding but highly symbolic report in which they declared Hungary to be no longer a fully functioning democracy.
Instead, the country should be labelled as a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” in which elections are regularly held but without respecting basic democratic norms, lawmakers said.
This is believed to be the first time an EU institution formally says a member state is not a proper democracy, an essential prerequisite to join the bloc.
The report raises concerns about a long list of fundamental rights considered to be under threat, including the electoral system, the independence of judiciary, privacy, freedom of expression, media pluralism, academic freedom, LGBTIQ rights and the protection of minorities and asylum seekers.
MEPs blame the “breakdown” of the rule of law on both the government of Viktor Orbán, who has been in power since 2010, and EU institutions, whose “lack of action” has allowed the democratic backsliding to go unchecked for the last decade.
In Belgrade, Orbán dismissed the findings and said Brussels should rather focus on the worsening energy crisis, which he considers to be a direct consequence of EU sanctions against Russia.
Orbán has been accused of undermining the bloc’s unity in the wake of the Ukraine war and has managed to water down several rafts of sanctions, including a far-reaching oil embargo.
“When I look at energy sanctions, I see that we Europeans, who are energy dwarfs, have taken sanctions against an energy giant,” the Hungarian leader said, referring to Russia, a global supplier of fossil fuels.
“This is a totally unusual phenomenon in history, and I think that this kind of thing is not usually good. We are very seriously damaged by these sanctions. They are bad for us, they are painful for us, they cost a lot of money.”
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