Peter Györkös, Hungarian Ambassador to Germany, and Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, spoke in Berlin on 27 June about current developments in Hungary that are causing particular concern in Germany and Europe. The event, Shared European Values? German-Hungarian Dialogue, was organised by the Federal Foreign Office and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The panel also included Zsolt Enyedi, Pro-Rector of the Central European University, and Márta Pardavi, Co-Chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
Topics for discussion: NGO Act and refugee policy
European partners struggle to understand many of the current developments in Hungary. An amendment to the University Act poses a threat to the future of the Central European University and to academic freedom in Hungary. A new NGO Act stipulates that Hungarian non-governmental organisations must declare funding from abroad.
There is also much to discuss as regards Hungary’s refugee policy. While Hungary underlines its contribution to security in Europe through its protection of the EU’s outer borders, NGOs take a critical view of the country’s asylum procedure with regard to the European legal framework and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
“It’s normal to discuss difficult topics”
After the event, Minister of State Roth said: “It was good that we spoke with one another today. I don’t want to hide the fact that we unfortunately cannot understand much of what is happening in Hungary. Incomprehension does not however mean that we are at a loss for words. That is why it is completely normal for European partners to discuss difficult topics. The European Union is a community of shared values, which can only function if all of us resolutely uphold and defend those values. For example, calls for homogeneous societies are incompatible with the fundamental principles of our EU treaties. And most importantly, we must finally give up believing the myth that all good things come from European capitals alone, while all bad things come from an allegedly vast bureaucracy in Brussels. What we need in Europe is more team spirit and greater commitment to what we have in common.”