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Jerzy Kwasniewski: “The OSCE released a partisan report”

The Magyar Nemzet is the main daily outlet of Hungary. Founded in 1938, the Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) is a reference journal for the conservatives of Hungary. The conservative newspaper is close to the current Hungarian government lead by Viktor Orbán.

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This article was published online by the Magyar Nemzet on 30 March 2022.

“The OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) report assumes the narrative of the Hungarian opposition, evoking biased journalism rather than fact-based evaluations,” said Jerzy Kwaśniewski, the President of the Board and co-founder of Ordo Iuris Institute, who came as part of the mission to observe Hungarian elections. Kwaśniewski, one of the most important European personalities according to Brussels’ Politico, says that Central Europe must stick to its constitutional traditions.

You have come to Hungary with your colleagues as an election observer. How are you conducting your work?

Our International Observation Mission, which I am the head of, was organized by the Ordo Iuris Institute and Collegium Intermarium University, along with our Croatian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian partners, within the framework of the Alliance for the Common Good (ACG). Due to the conflict in Ukraine, our colleagues from there were not able to come, but they assisted in preparations. There are 18 of us here in all. We arrived on March 24th and we will leave a few days after the elections. We will then present our final evaluation.

In the meantime, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has already published their interim report of election observations in Hungary – which your mission criticized. Why?

In the meantime, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has already published their interim report of election observations in Hungary – which your mission criticized. Why?

The interim report was already in the crossfire of political battles in Hungary upon our arrival and it was immediately weaponized internationally to use against Hungary. This should not be allowed because this way, the report can impact the Hungarian elections – especially in its final days. Moreover, not only does the report gather “concerns” regarding the electoral system, but also it supports them. And finally – this is what we are most critical of – it does not meet international standards for accuracy, verifiability and impartiality.

Could you provide an example?

For instance, instead of referring to the child protection law by its full, official legal title, they call it by its nickname. They repeatedly fail to name their sources for objections and do not give the perspective of governing parties. They essentially represent the opposition’s platform, they are biased. A fair report would present both sides of the argument, both opinions. They do not provide full context of how constituencies were drawn; they do not show evidence of their allegations of media imbalances. The whole thing reminds me more of a biased piece of journalism rather than a neutral, fact-based assessment.

What will ensure that your work will be impartial?

We have committed ourselves to certain principles. These are principles (such as impartiality and precise conclusions) that are enshrined in international organizations’ documents, including the OSCE itself or the European Union. One can only be a neutral observer by complying with these. We are not here to influence political processes.

Who will you meet with?

We have contacted every single political party, the Constitutional Court, Hungarian election officials at various levels, NGOs, and some members of Budapest Pride in connection with the referendum. We will meet with representatives of the media – and not only Hungary public and private sources, but foreign-owned ones as well. We are aware of the divide in the media market as well as of the strong influence foreign capital has on European media. Foreign influence is present in politics as well: although direct campaign funding from abroad is prohibited in many countries (including yours), we know that foreign capital attempts to circumvent this through politically active NGOs.

Will they all meet with you?

Though our meetings are still being arranged, we have generally received positive answers.

Some say the OSCE interim report is a preemptive measure to lay the foundations for accusations of electoral fraud in case the governing parties win on April 3rd again. Do you agree?

I cannot form a definitive opinion on this, but it is certain that the situation is not good. Especially considering that the OSCE representatives were surely aware of the impact their report would have on the campaigns. This raises doubts as to what their purpose was in the first place. For years we have noticed that certain international organizations, like the OSCE, make a distinction between “old” and “new” democracies; Central and Eastern European countries falling under the latter. From the outset, their observation missions are framed as those who want to tend to the development of democracy in these countries. It is typical of such international organizations that, while they may not adhere to their own standards, their activities undermine the position of Central and Eastern European countries; they try to babysit our political processes. This ‘babysitting’ attitude is understandable for countries that are holding their first or second elections, but not where a centuries-long constitutional tradition stands. This is completely unacceptable. This is why we decided to also come as international observers to Hungary with our experts and lawyers, to represent a counterweight. Thus, we registered at the National Electoral Office.

We spoke with Aleksander Stepkowski a week ago, Judge of the Polish Supreme Court, aboutthe aforementioned legal histories. We asked him: considering the 800-year-old Hungarian Golden Bull and the Polish Nobles’ Democracy, how is it possible that it is our countries continuously forced into rule of law debates with the European Union? He replied that those negotiating in Brussels are not really concerned with our opinions as they just listen to their liberal friends. Is this surprising?

Jean d’Aspremont, professor of law, wrote about international law as a belief system in a study. Norms are indeed formed by a very small circle who then impose those on others. A few weeks ago, we also discussed rule of law with Ordo Iuris and members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). Our experts prepared for the debate on the Polish judicial reform and other topics. LIBE was not interested in this, but they did have two questions: why do we hate women and is the Kremlin funding us?

The first question perhaps refers to the fact that you are a pro-life Christian-conservative party and against abortion. How did you answer?

(Laughs) The majority of our leaders and staff are women; the Polish constitutional tradition has been protecting life from inception for decades. We must take our constitutional traditions into account. The European Union should not attempt to unify different approaches, but rather accept diversity. Regarding the Russian accusation, European conservatives are getting things elsewhere. So no, the Russians are not funding us – in fact, unlike liberal organizations, George Soros is not funding us either. Nor is the Polish government or any political party. We function purely from the donations from 20,000 Polish families.

Mainstream news outlets describe Ordo Iuris as anti-LGBTQ…

This is also an interesting story. What happened was that many Polish municipalities supported our statement on family policy – which actually did not contain anything on LGBTQ affairs. Then, LGBTQ activists picked up the “anti-LGBTQ atlas” and started talking of “no-go” zones, where apparently, they are hated. Not a word of this is true – but in any case, the disinformation has reached such levels that it has reached mainstream Europe. Poland actually is one of the few countries where the law never punished homosexuality. Christian religious morality condemning the act is another question itself.

The liberal, Brussels paper, Politico, recently listed you among the top 28 most influential personalities in Europe; you are described as a dreamer who is turning back time in Poland to a “patriarchy”. What did you think of this?

At least they did not categorize me as a destroyer. But this is also part of the campaign to blacken European conservatives, to strengthen stereotypes about us. Right now, we actually want to push things forward, working to get civilization out of this dead-end, which ideologies such as gender have brought us to. As for the mocking term, “patriarchal”, I just want to point out that there is practically no difference in men and women’s salaries in Poland; we have the lowest numbers of domestic violence, and the highest proportion of them are reported to police. Western Europe should understand that Central Europe has its own social culture. They want to force solutions onto us (such as gender ideology) which resulted poorly in their societies. If we have a place on the top list of Politico or elsewhere, this is because Central Europe is now reclaiming its role in continental politics.

How does the Association for the Public Good, of which the Hungarian Center for Fundamental Rights is a member, contribute to this?

We are constantly finding that EU institutions, including the Court of Justice, are increasingly seeking to deprive Member States of their sovereignty. They dragged family policy into this as well, which goes against the EU treaties. We, on the other hand, are defending our national constitutional identities. With our Christian roots we can create a civic network that can speak as one in Europe on the rule of law. We believe in national sovereignty and Europe, not a federal system of states.

László Szőcs