“Honestly, I can’t understand what is meant by illiberal when it comes to democracy,” said Merkel at a joint press conference with Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban on Monday. With demonstrations against the Fidesz government’s authoritarian streak, Merkel was right to raise these concerns with her fellow EPP premier.
Orban has famously said “not all democracies have to be liberal”, and has been the subject of EP debate over whether or not to invoke Article 7 sanctions against Hungary (essentially suspending its voting rights for breaching EU values) over his government’s meddling and restrictions in the judiciary and the media.
While voices from outside a country can inflame nationalist opinion, it’s important to voice concern over the health of Hungarian civil society, as Merkel has done. The health of Hungarian democracy affects us all in the EU as we are part of the same system – and one that has liberty and democracy written into its founding treaties as fundamental values.