The week saw the alarming news that Hungary has been warned that it could be the first country in the EU to have its democracy placed under international scrutiny.
An influential committee of the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog (not part of the EU), proposed that Hungary be subject to a “monitoring procedure” that would place the country’s democratic rights and liberties under international monitoring, something that has never happened in any of the EU’s 27 countries.
The final decision to push ahead with the scrutiny needs to be taken by the council’s parliamentary assembly which brings together lawmakers from the organisation’s 47 member states. Ten countries outside the EU but members of the council, including Russia and Turkey, are being monitored.
The “opinion” delivered by the council’s monitoring committee accused Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán of seeking to take control of independent institutions in Hungary, of using the constitutional rewriting to cement the power of his own political party, Fidesz, and of ignoring the country’s supreme court.
Budapest and Brussels have been at odds for months over curbs on freedom in Hungary, including restrictions on media expression, pressure on judges and control of the central bank. Orbán has consistently and robustly rejected the charges, with his government and diplomats mounting a loud and detailed campaign aimed at disproving the criticism,
A little closer to home, Nigel Farage was criticised this week for his reaction to the news that a UKIP candidate owns a strip club.
In an interview on Wednesday with BBC Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show, Farage, said it was nonsense that he had frequented and enjoyed lap-dancing clubs in the past but admitted going to one once unintentionally.
“I was taken once unwittingly and I did say that I wasn’t appalled by it,” he said. “I did quite like it. What you want me to say? I hated it?”
Asked whether his comment confirmed some assertions recently that he is anti women, he attempted to laugh it off. “That’s really rather silly,” he said. “I have to tell you, if I’d been anti-women, then the whole of my adult life would have been just that much simpler.”
These statements have been called in to question though, as Farage, in a 2009 interview with the Guardian said he had been to “lap-dancing clubs”, boasting that other leaders would not admit to it because “they’re living in this PC world and nobody must admit to being human”.