Central Europe Activ

Hungary was the first state to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, only four days after it was signed on 13 December 2007. The demonstrative quick step of the Hungarian Parliament has already given rise to a conspiracy theory.

I have received a number of e-mails from an Irish no-campaigner to help write up an article about the quick approval. After a few e-mails the whole story was revealed: the Hungarians must have been so quick to approve that they have not had it translated! Obviously, the first ratification set a precedent for the second, and you never know…

The fact is that all international treaties are finalized in the official languages of the parties involved. This is a particularly difficult job in the EU with over 20 official languages, and it certainly delays procedures, but only before the document is signed. In fact, the treaty text which is a compromise of many states was published on the Portugal Presidency site on 5 October in all languages as approved by the IGC, and later there was room for a linguistic review. It was not a secret: the text was lined on my personal blog already on 5 October, and the link is dated on the 4 October because the Portuguese have released the link beforehand so as soon as they have the translations they can publish it. The final version had been also published before it was signed in all official languages.

They do read Hungarian here.The fact that the Hungarian Parliament has approved the Treaty as it was signed on 13 December the next day it had an assembly day was a political demonstration indeed. The resolution in the Hungarian assembly explicitly stated that none of the articles of the Constitution that had been discussed in the previous ratification process was changed. The most important issue for Hungary that was included in the Constitution – an article that forbids discrimination against ethnic minority members in a same way as against religious or gender minorities – was included in the Lisbon Treaty, too. The resolution closes with the notice that Hungary had approved the Constitution, and it approves the Lisbon Treaty exactly because it finds all the important elements of the Constitution in the Treaty. For this reason the Hungarian parliamentary notion calls the MPs to ratify the Lisbon Treaty with exactly the same words as it had ratified the Constitution.

Hard to believe for an Eurosceptic, but the Hungarian Parliament did not approve the Lisbon Treaty for what was left out from the Constitution, but for what remained from the Constitution. The Hungarian resolution in fact calls the Lisbon Treaty the best compromise the supporters of the Constitution could get.

It is suppose to think that the Hungarians who had no democracy between 1947 and 1990 because of a foreign power would use their Parliament as a rubber-stamp of foreign language treaties is a bit downgrading. This is a country where people supported NATO membership with a 85,3% majority on a referendum in 1997, and 83,8% supported EU membership on another referendum in 2003. It is uplifting that all the five parliamentary parties gave their support for the ratification an only a few member of the opposition did not vote for it. 325 MPs voted in favor, 4 voted against, and 12 abstained from the vote.

I hope this will reassure at least a few Irish voters!

Link: the documents of the Hungarian ratification process (in Hungarian).

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  1. Well done Antal Daniel, it is really important in the run-up to the Irish referendum that foreign myths and legends are rigoursly examined. I write as a concerned European citizen of Irish nationality, concerned lest the Irish vote is overly influenced by untruths or half-truths from other countries.

  2. In addition to Hungary, there are 17 more member states which ratified the Constitutional Treaty. For them it is a question of how much, in addition to time, was wasted.

  3. I guess an even larger amount of time and energy is at stake on the Irish referendum, and not only for the 17 states that had ratified the constitutional treaty. So, good luck Ireland, good luck European Union!

  4. In the meantime I received an apology from the editor of that certain website. He says he is not a no-campaigner just not certain yet about the merits of ratification. I hope that fact that the Hungarian Parliament knew what it supported will give a marginal support for the skeptic :)

  5. I am the person to whom reference is made. I am not a no-campaigner, and not even a confirmed no-voter yet.

    Even with a English-langauage version, I, a practising lawyer, found it all but impossible to make sense of the Treaty text. Now that the consolidated version of the treaties has belatedly been made available, it is much easier.

    Hungarian legislators and public opinion had no such version available. I cannot believe that every legislator, never mind the voters, did what I could not do. And this happened not just in Hungary.

    They must therefore have voted in accordance with what they believed, on the authority of those they trusted, was the content and effect of Lisbon.

    I am not saying that their trust was unjustified. What I am saying is that “trust me, I am a politician/eurocrat/diplomat” is not an approach consistent with the form of democracy that I was brought up to respect.

  6. Fergus, the European constitution was the EU’s attempt to get the European citizens involved through an open and very understandable text. However, this did not work just because of all those nonsensical no-voters. So now it is tried through a nonsensical (or better, unreadable) treaty.

    I am for a more transparent, democratic and open working of the Union, however, this may not come in the way of the decent functioning of it’s institutions.

    So to say it crudely: I am for a unreadable treaty so it may pass!

    btw: if you want to understand the new treaty, just read the old constitution…

  7. I think that the EU is a federation of democratic states and it is not a democracy. Although it would be very nice if all the citizens would be reading constitutions and the habeas corpus and international treaties I we have to make with a world where most of the will not do it. But I don’t think that you have to be a chartered accountant to use a bank account and understand how it works. The treaty is an international agreement and this is the text the member states could agree on.

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