Democracy in Europe: Hungary

Dutch At 20:30 CET on the 13th January 2017, De Balie hosted a discussion on the state of democracy in Hungary and what lessons the Hungarian example holds for the rest of the continent.

This discussion formed part of a triptych on democracy in Hungary, Poland and Turkey. The discussion took place in English and you can enjoy a recording of the whole evening below.

Topic / Speakers / Democracy in Europe triptych 

About the debate:

The Fidesz Party in Hungary has been in power since 2010. During this time, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has sought to expand his power by rewriting the national constitution while refusing any role for the political opposition. His party’s actions include firing virtually all of the high officials of independent institutions, limiting the powers of the Hungarian Supreme Court, increasing its grip on the National Bank, whipping up anti-Semitism and anti-Roma sentiments and rewriting history to honour past leaders who supported the holocaust.

De Balie therefore invited Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton University, world-renowned expert on the Hungarian Constitution, to speak about the current situation in the country. How can the developments in Hungary be explained and what can other countries in Europe learn from the lessons these provide? With sinking trust in traditional parties of the centre, are other EU states at risk of going the same way as Hungary? After her lecture, Scheppele was invited to discuss these matters and the Dutch context with Bastiaan Rijpkema, Philosopher of Law and Lecturer at Leiden University, and to take questions from the audience.


Bastiaan Rijpkema lectures in the philosophy of law at Leiden University and has recently published a book which looks at democratic limitations, entitled Weerbare democratie: de grenzen van democratische tolerantie [Defensive Democracy: the Limits of Democratic Tolerance] (2015).

Kim Lane Scheppele is the Laurance S. Rockefeller professor of sociology and international affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Centre for Human Values at Princeton University. Her work focuses on the intersection of constitutional and international law, particularly in constitutional systems under stress. Recently, she has also worked as a public commentator on the transformation of Hungary from a constitutional-democratic state to one that risks breaching the constitutional principles of the European Union.

About the triptych:

In Hungary, Poland and Turkey democratically chosen politicians are undermining open and democratic society, the rule of law and its institutional fabric. These are remarkable developments for any country, but in particular for the EU members Hungary and Poland. In recent years, we have seen all three states democratically deteriorate and this series asks: what exactly is happening there and what can we learn from it? At three informative events, De Balie will explore these questions and try to answer them.

Organisers and sponsors:

This discussion was organised by Tilburg UniversityNederland Rechtsstaat and De Balie and was made possible with the support of the vfonds.

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