EU obliged to protect democratic rights

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THE European Parliament’s debate on the situation in Hungary was certainly robust, and maybe even a little feisty at times, but to characterise it as “spewing hate” as part of an EU “vendetta” against Hungary is nonsense (Gerald Warner: “We should fight Hungary’s corner”, 21 April). The EU has an obligation to act when it fears that fundamental democratic rights are being threatened. These rules were approved unanimously by all member states and ratified by all national parliaments.

Scrutiny by European parliamentarians of a national government in respect of that country’s (freely entered into) European obligations is surely evidence of democratic accountability at work in the EU, not of its absence, as Mr Warner claims. In fact, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, understands this better than most: he was one of the first prime ministers ever to visit Strasbourg to debate with MEPs in his own right (rather than attending as a representative of the rotating Council presidency).

In any event, I would invite any of your readers interested in this matter to visit the European Parliament website, where they can watch for themselves a recording of the 17 April debate and draw their own conclusions.

Further, I am happy to inform Mr Warner that his wait for a debate on “the state of democracy in Brussels” need not be in vain. On the same website he will be able to follow MEP debates on a number of related topics, such as how to improve democratic oversight of the EU’s developing regime of economic governance, to which he refers. Such discussions take place on a regular basis. If the mood takes him, he could also participate in an interactive debate via Facebook or Twitter, such as the one on European citizenship that took place last Tuesday, with contributions from the president of the European Parliament, European commissioners and the European ombudsman.

James Temple-Smithson, 
Head of the European Parliament Office in Edinburgh