Since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war in February 2022, the European Union has adopted six sanction packages against Russia, several of which (the second [25 February 2022], the fourth [15 March 2022], the fifth [8 April 2022] and the sixth [3 June 2022]) also covered the energy sector. Russia has violated international law, which has prohibited starting a war since the Briand-Kellog Pact of 1928, by abolishing ius ad bellum and not recognising any casus belli as a legitimate argument for starting a war. Like all European countries, our country also condemns armed aggression. Given all this, however, shortly after the measures taken against the Russians, it had to be realised that Brussels’ sanction policy had failed, as economic decisions had been made on a purely ideological basis, the result of which, together with the armed conflict, is the energy crisis and wartime inflation that has hit the continent. On 7 March, 1 euro was worth 1.09 US dollars, today it is only 1.02. In contrast, 1 Russian rouble was worth 0.0072 US dollars on 7 March, but today it is 0.018. With the sanctions against Russia, Brussels has actually punished its own Member States, where covering utility costs sometimes endangers people’s livelihood:
- In Latvia, the price of household natural gas has risen by five and a half times in one year,
- Electricity and gas bills in Belgium are currently almost HUF 180,000 higher than a year ago,
- According to current forecasts, in almost half of British households, people’s salaries are not enough to settle their electricity and gas bills,
- The annual energy consumption of an average Dutch household is more than HUF one million.
Hungary protects the population from intensively rising utility prices and curbs inflation with official prices. Due to this, the population had to pay only 2.75 eurocents for one kWh of natural gas in Budapest in May, while it was 21.92 eurocents in Copenhagen, 22.89 in Stockholm, and 26.85 in Amsterdam. Price caps are not only economic protection tools in the hands of the government, but also play a role in protecting fundamental rights and strengthening sovereignty, since the free disposal of the income obtained through work (which is not possible if people spend a considerable proportion of their salary on subsistence) is protected as a fundamental right. Also, due to fixed prices, citizens retain the sovereign right to decide what they spend their money on and do not have to spend a significant part of their income on quasi-obligatory expenses such as utilities.
While the national civil government does its best to protect basic rights and individual and national sovereignty, the European Commission (hereinafter: EC), which regularly attacks Hungary with baseless accusations of the rule of law, has come up with a plan that disregards EU law, violating fundamental rights as well as individual and national sovereignty. The EC would give itself the authority to have a binding say in the gas consumption of the EU Member States. Thus, if Brussels were to suffer from a significant shortage of gas reserves in the next period (the saturation of European gas storages was 58 percent on 30 June, which is 2 percent below the average of the last five years), it could oblige the Member States to reduce their gas consumption. The EC has also created a legal procedure by which the Member States can accept this plan with a simple majority instead of unanimity, circumventing both European Parliament (hereinafter: EP) and the veto of individual EU members.
Brussels’ modus operandi is characterised by the double standard by which it measures itself and the governments promoting the ideology of open societies as well as the countries with a conservative leadership that reject extremist ideologies. When the Hungarian National Assembly adopted Act XII of 2020 on the containment of coronavirus in March 2020, the entire Hungarian and international left-wing network, both politicians and the neoliberal media, targeted the legislation that allowed effective protection against the pandemic, calling it an “authorisation act”, thus referring to the actual Authorisation Act enacted by the NSDAP in the Third Reich. The differences between the two documents are clearly visible, of which it should be highlighted that while the 1933 legislation eliminated the system of checks and balances in Germany and was drawn up solely for the benefit of one party, the Hungarian legislation was made for the purpose of public health, in accordance with the provisions of our national constitution and the legislative criteria, and strengthened the guarantees of the rule of law already provided in the Fundamental Law. Of course, the left-liberal media do not raise concerns about the rule of law in connection with the current idea of Brussels, nor do they mention an authorisation act, even though the draft clearly goes against EU legislation. Under the EU auspices, the EC’s basic functions and powers are to promote the enforcement of the EU’s general interests by drafting legislative proposals, enforcing already adopted EU standards, and implementing the EU’s policy and budget. So, in accordance with the founding treaties, the EC has powers to initiate and monitor legislation in the dimension of the EU institutional system. The current draft, in connection with which a legal mechanism was also created, would enable the EC to have a binding say in a Member State’s gas consumption, thus circumventing both the EP and the veto of individual Member States. This plan of the EC clearly upsets the “normal” institutional order and removes the function of the EP and the Council, since the EC can only act to initiate legislation, as the actual legislation falls within the powers of the EP and the Council. Article 14 of the Treaty on European Union mentions joint legislation with the Council as the first among the functions of the EP, thereby showing also at the level of the contractual provisions that the EP has become the central legislative body of the EU, thus, in contrast to the times before the Treaty of Lisbon, it not only proposes amendments to draft legislation but is also one of the legislators, a co-legislator. Although here the EC would indisputably be authorised for “special” legislation, which is not included in the founding treaties this way, the lack of guarantees at the constitutional level by no means raises such concerns about the rule of law in the mainstream media and among Brussels bureaucrats as the Hungarian law providing for a more effective protection against the coronavirus, of which the norm itself states, in accordance with the Fundamental Law, that the National Assembly can revoke the authorisation before the end of the state of danger, and the National Assembly decides on the repeal of this law upon the end of the state of danger. In other words, the government was far from receiving unlimited and indefinite authorisation, the raising of the “authorisation act” was only part of the left-liberal disparaging propaganda. In fact, the strongest power was with the parliament all the time, and the executive power only had certain additional powers until the end of the state of danger, which served only for more effective defence. However, regarding the current draft of the EC, the system of checks and balances between the EU institution is not visible. Pursuant to Article 122 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, without prejudice to other procedures provided for in the Treaty, the Council may, on the basis of the Commission’s proposal, decide on measures appropriate to the economic situation, especially if in the supply of certain products – including, in particular, the field of energy – serious difficulties arise. In this case, given the importance of the matter, unanimity in the Council is necessary, but the EC only expects decision-making by qualified majority in the new draft, thus depriving the right of the Member States to exercise their veto even alone.
The EC’s plan conflicts not only with EU law but also with constitutional law: it violates the sovereignty of European citizens and EU nation states and has the effect of limiting fundamental rights. In the Council, unanimity is essential for “sensitive subject areas”, but in this case, the EC’s draft would void this, thus national sovereignty and Member States’ powers would be indirectly weakened – vis-à-vis the EU institutions. The fact that Brussels would directly regulate the gas consumption of the Member States seriously violates the sovereignty of individual countries, on the one hand. On the other hand, it is also incompatible with the principle of subsidiarity, since each state concludes its own gas contract, and during elections, the population also considers which party represents which energy policy. However, the members of the EC are not elected by anyone, which means that they do not have popular legitimacy either. On the one hand, that is what violates individual sovereignty: that voters indirectly elect the executive power, and the members of the Council are the ministers. But since the EC would circumvent the Council, the will of the electorate cannot prevail in the EU area, as the Member States cannot exercise their right of veto, nor can they mediate their interests through the EP with the help of their representatives. On the other hand, individual sovereignty is extremely limited by the fact that – according to media reports – based on the draft, the EC could demand from certain countries to reduce their gas consumption by 5-20 percent between the autumn and spring periods, and of course the population would also feel this. The fact that in a European welfare society, such as Hungary, the gas consumption of citizens is limited, thereby limiting how much hot water they can use or how much they can heat their properties, second-generation, the so-called ECOSOC (economic, social, cultural) fundamental rights are violated. And if somebody is forced to be cold in their own home, through no fault of their own, because of a decision in Brussels, their human dignity is violated, which is already a first-generation, inalienable human right.
The EC intends to have this surreal and dystopian plan accepted at the extraordinary Energy Council to be held on 26 July. The task of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council configuration (TTE) is to adopt legislation, jointly with the European Parliament, on the operation of energy markets, and to ensure the uninterrupted supply of energy, encourage energy efficiency and the use of new and renewable energy, and facilitate the interconnection of energy networks. The members of the TTE are the Ministers of Transport, Ministers of Energy, and the Ministers of Telecommunications. Such an initiative of the Commission cannot be considered a novelty in all respects, since the agenda of the EP plenary session already included an initiative for amending the basic treaties of the European Union, in which the EP, referring to the reformation of the EU, tried to take steps that would eliminate the last significant bulwark that protects the national interest of the Member States: the veto power of nation states.