Nepotism doesn’t stop at the Hungarian border

8 April 2018

Nepotism doesn’t stop at the Hungarian border

The European Commission, and in particular the Dutch Commissioner responsible for such matters, Frans Timmermans, are showing a great deal of concern over the decline of the rule of law in Hungary and Poland, including the lack of an independent judiciary, the extent of corruption and nepotism, and encroachment on journalists’ freedom. All important matters, but the EU’s own institutions, as well as the member states themselves, can also be found lacking in these areas. Below I give a number of examples.

Let’s begin with the question of an independent judiciary. In the negotiations on the new generation of trade and investment treaties, the European Commission sees no problem in working with the proposed arbitration system, because multinationals prefer this to the national courts. Here the Commission clearly puts trade above any concern about an independent judiciary.

Hungary appears to be the site of fraud in relation to the subsidies which the country receives from the European funds, and the fact that the authorities are doing nothing about this was discussed recently in a closed session of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, on which I sit. Hungarian PM Viktor Orban does take good care of his mates. But what about our own PM’s chums? The Dutch government wants to abolish the tax on dividends now multinationals established here in the Netherlands have requested this. So is Dutch premier Mark Rutte different to Orban? Or take the nepotistic actions of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker himself. There’s the appointment of his right-hand man Martin Selmayr as Secretary-General, but consider also the contribution made by Juncker when in the government of Luxemburg to the ease with which taxes can be avoided and evaded by multinationals. Is this not looking after your friends?

As for journalistic freedom, I can sum this up quite briefly. Since the establishment by the European External Action Service (EEAS) of a bureau for the detection of ‘fake news’, eurocritical journalists have to be wary. As things stand this bureau is quite amateurish, but how would you like it were it to take real control? Next week I’ll be presenting a motion to the effect that all activity in this area must cease, because I take the freedom of journalists very seriously.

Much as I hope to see today’s elections in Hungary won by parties which stand for the rule of law, should this prove not to be the case, you can’t claim that the member state governments or European Commissioners have set a good example. Unfortunately, nepotism doesn’t stop at the Hungarian border.

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