“I don’t think that the traditional concept of marriage has changed just because we came into another millennium” are the words of Jozsef Szajer, former high-ranking representative of Hungarian conservative ruling party, Fidesz, in defense of the new Constitution of Hungary, the provisions of which restrict the rights of members of the LGBT + community.
Szajer defended this “traditional” concept of marriage (marriage is a union between a man and a woman) from Brussels as a member of the European Parliament, while enjoying not so “traditional” activities that would probably made him the subject of social stigmatization and condemnation in his homeland. Blind obedience to the ruling ideology of the party and respect for the domestic legal order are probably the reasons why Szajer until recently tried to leave the impression of an exemplary family man, maintaining a “traditional” marriage with his wife with whom he has one daughter.
Unfortunately, the practice of double life chosen by many members of the LGBT + community in order not to be exposed to the condemnation of their environment is not uncommon nor new. By choosing this kind of life, they, more or less consciously, harm themselves and the people around them in the long run, while living in constant fear that they will be discovered. However, the story which made to front pages of all European newspapers, with Jozsef Szajer as one of the main actors, proves that the truth always comes to light in the end. It was at a gay sex party in Brussels, organized against the measures of Belgian authorities to prevent the spread of the corona virus. When members of the police broke into the scene, they found Szajer, who was trying to escape through the window carrying a package of ecstasy in his pocket.
The fact that a member of the European Parliament has been caught disrespecting the measures of the authorities in a member state of the Union which grants him privileges and immunities under international law, at a time when millions of people across the continent are giving up their usual daily activities and contact with people, is worrying enough. If you add to that the fact that Jozsef Szajer probably deceived his family, close people and the public for years, hiding his feelings towards the same sex, the situation becomes even more serious. What sets this case apart, however, is the fact that Szajer is a person who has always, throughout his political career, been at the forefront of defending traditional values allegedly founded in Christianity. Values on which the ideology of the ruling Fidesz is based (Szajer had been a member until his resignation after the scandal), whose distorted interpretation often serves as a reason for systemic discrimination against women, members of the LGBT + community, foreigners and all those who do not fit into the traditional mold created by the government in Hungary. Szajer, therefore, defends the ideology which restricts the rights and freedoms of a significant number of Hungarians in the heart of the European Union, often contrary to European values and norms, while in his free time enjoys a lifestyle that would make a gay person in Hungary experience enough inconvenience for life.
The whole event might not have attracted so much attention if it weren’t for the politician from Hungary. A member state of the European Union, which, along with Poland, has been the target of criticism for a long time due to the gradual collapse of the rule of law and the systematic violation of human rights of a significant part of the population. Proceedings have been initiated against these two EU Member States under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union because of the clear risk of seriously violating the common values on which the Union is based (respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The provisions of Article 7 authorize the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question. However, this procedure has so far proved to be quite inefficient, which causes a lot of resentment within the Union itself, especially among the founding states and member states that contribute the most to the EU budget.
Dissatisfaction with funding member states which violate the basic values and principles on which the European Union is based has led to the consideration of introducing new mechanisms for spending Union funds. Hungary and Poland are among the biggest winners from the EU budget, while in the meantime, these two member states have seen the biggest setbacks in terms of the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the media and the attitude towards non-governmental organizations. Many international non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have been pointing out the negative trend in Hungary in the aforementioned areas for years, but also academic freedoms, the rights of Roma, LGBT + population, refugees, women…
The plan to link the Union budget for the period 2021-2027 and the coronavirus recovery package to respect the rule of law, which would enable denial of funding from Union funds to members who violate democratic norms, was vetoed by Hungary and Poland. Representatives of the two member states argued that a mechanism that “enables the protection of the EU budget where violations of the rule of law in a member state are found to affect or seriously jeopardize the sound financial management of the EU budget or the protection of EU financial interests” seriously undermines their sovereignty. It sounds surprising to say the least, since the only thing that the mentioned mechanism envisaged was respect for the rule of law when spending funds from the Union, from which Poland and Hungary, ie the residents of these two countries, have multiple benefits.
It seems that the decisive “NO” of Hungary and Poland in this case was prompted primarily by dissatisfaction with the tendency to establish greater control over respect for the common values of the European Union within member states. In other words, both countries still want to be part of the elite club of countries from which they receive multiple financial (and other) benefits, but to continue to pursue a policy of division and discrimination against all those who do not fit into the sculpted ideological mold of right-wing authorities. Although in case of the budget there was no mention of discrimination against LGBT +, attitudes towards women or asylum seekers, any violation of sovereignty in areas that fall within the Union’s common values is seen as potentially dangerous to perpetuating discriminatory systems based on “Christian values”.
While striving to preserve such systems at home, the Hungarian authorities faced the unpleasant fact at the end of this year that member(s) of their party in Brussels enjoy(s) all freedoms and rights that the rest of the European Union stands for. Thus, one of the main creators of the “Constitution for the 21st Century” of Hungary, which, in the same way as in Serbia, made marriage between a man and a woman a constitutional category, thus complicating the fight for same-sex marriage, paradoxically reached the center of gay scandal. While they try to present themselves in public as defenders of traditional and Christian values, within their four walls, members of these political options often live a life that has little in common with those values. Therefore, with their hypocrisy, they continue to destroy the values of the European Union and set dangerous precedents for the political elites of the candidate countries for membership in the Union, in which there are already numerous problems in the rule of law and respect for human rights. The question is whether the weakened Union currently has enough political will and influence to bring the demolition of these walls to an end.