The Hungarian parliament’s national security committee has not been able to function for the past three months.
Fidesz-KDNP MPs have boycotted the closed-door meetings at the behest of deputy chair Szilárd Németh, who refuses to sit in on meetings of national security with LMP’s Bernadett Szél, a green MP he has publicly accused of being an agent of George Soros. The situation remained unchanged when the committee met on Tuesday — again to no avail. Fidesz-KDNP MPs were not in attendance, thereby preventing the committee from making a quorum.
Why this matters: Parliament is simply unable to provide oversight of Hungary’s clandestine services.
Opposition MPs would have asked state security officials about Lajos Kósa’s 4.3 billion Euro scandal, and the alleged secret surveillance of Péter Márki-Zay, Hódmezővásárhely’s new independent mayor.
Interior ministry undersecretary Tibor Pogácsás refused to answer questions posed by opposition MPs.
“The law on the [state’s clandestine security] services clearly states that parliamentary oversight is performed by the national security committee,” Pogácsás said. “Therefore, in the event that the committee has quorum and adopts its agenda, we will naturally answer the questions put to us by the [committee’s] representatives.” He added that MPs can still put their questions in writing to clandestine service officials and wait for an answer.
Hungarian law states the parliament’s national security committee must be chaired by an opposition MP, a position currently served by MSZP MP Zsolt Molnár. While this rule appears to be a concession to the opposition, the ruling coalition’s ability to simply obstruct committee meetings from taking place would seem to defeat the very purpose of an opposition politician chairing the committee in the first place.
Miklós Ligeti, legal director for Transparency International Hungary, says the national security committee – and the way it operates – “provides one of the very few constitutional safeguards concerning the activities of the national security services….Obstructing its work not only deprives the opposition of a very important role in parliament, but also weakens the constitutional checks over national security services, even if only temporarily.”