Interview With Luxembourg's Foreign Minister 'Hungary Should Have Voting Rights Withdrawn'

In a SPIEGEL interview, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn fiercely criticizes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Parts of Hungary's new constitution resemble a dictatorship, he says, suggesting the country should be stripped of its EU voting rights for undermining core democratic freedoms.
Jean Asselborn, foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Luxembourg.

Jean Asselborn, foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Luxembourg.

Foto: Richard Drew/ AP

SPIEGEL: The European Commission has launched legal proceedings  against Hungary for breaching the European Union treaties. Is that enough?

Asselborn: I welcome the steps taken by the European Commission but that is not enough. This isn't just about individual breaches of the law but about the anti-European spirit of the policy of Prime Minister Orbán.

SPIEGEL: What are your main points of criticism?

Asselborn: Orbán has clearly breached Article 2 of the EU treaties that enshrine the democratic values of the constitutional state such as freedom and pluralism. The media have been under the control of the government for a year. Freedom of opinion has been abolished, the separation of powers is being ignored. Independent judges are being replaced by those loyal to the regime. In these points Hungary is no longer different from a dictatorship like that in Belarus.

SPIEGEL: Orbán doesn't seem too worried about that. The restriction of media freedoms has so far had no consequences.

Asselborn: That is because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy indirectly shielded him at the time and today.

SPIEGEL: But now Orbán is ready to work together with the European Commission in examining the accusations.

Asselborn: The heads of government must not hide behind the Commission. We have to get involved and make sure that all 500 million EU citizens can live in dignity, freedom and democracy. In Hungary too.

SPIEGEL: What do you propose?

Asselborn: If the heads of government, with the approval of the European Parliament, determine that severe breaches of the basic values of the EU have taken place, the Council can withdraw the voting rights of a member state. From my point of view Orbán long ago lost the right to appear and to vote as a European.

Interview conducted by Christoph Schult
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