In Praise of the Tavares Report: Europe finally said No to Viktor Orbán

Today Europe acted to hold the Hungarian government to the constitutional values that it eagerly endorsed when it joined the European Union nearly a decade ago.

The action came in the form of the Tavares Report, which sailed through the European Parliament with many votes to spare. The report provides a bill of particulars against the Fidesz government and lays out a strong program to guide European Union institutions in bringing Hungary back into the European fold. With the passage of this report, Europe has finally said no to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his constitutional revolution.

The Tavares Report is by far the strongest and most consequential official condemnation of the Fidesz consolidation of power over the last three years. And it creates a powerful set of tools for European institutions to use in defending the long-term prospects for Hungarian democracy.

The report passed with a surprisingly lopsided vote: 370 in favor, 248 against and 82 abstentions. In a Parliament split almost evenly between left and right, this tally gave the lie to the Hungarian government’s claim that the report was merely a conspiracy of the left. With about 50 of the 754 MEPs absent, the total number of yes votes was still larger than the total number of MEPs of all of the left parties combined. In short, even if all MEPs had been present, the left alone still couldn’t account for all of those votes. And since the 82 abstentions had the effect of allowing the report to go forward, they should be read as soft “yeses” rather than undecided or negative votes.

Most of the abstentions no doubt came from Fidesz’s own party in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP). Many EPP members signaled ahead of time that they could not back Orbán but also would not vote overtly against the position of their party, which officially supported him without whipping the votes. FIdesz had been counting on party discipline to save it ...

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