Speech by Minister Vidar Helgesen on 25 September 2014 at the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.
European integration has contributed to stability, democracy and economic development. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The enlargement eastwards. The Copenhagen criteria [to accede to the EU, countries must establish a stable democracy and the rule of law, respect human rights, and ensure that minorities are protected]. Supposing these countries hadn’t joined the European cooperation?
The Treaty of Lisbon from 2009: democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for the principles of the UN Charter are to form the basis for EU policy. This is underpinned by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (when completed) will strengthen the protection of human rights in Europe even further.
The struggle for democracy and human rights in Europe has not been won once and for all. Ethnic nationalism. Power politics/Russia. Fundamental values are being challenged. Intolerance and hate speech. Right-wing extremism and other radical political forces are on the rise. Minorities are being harassed. Challenges relating to corruption and governance.
Mention in this context: Norway supports social and political development in Europe (1.8 billion Euro contribution made by the EEA EFTA countries). Through the EEA and Norway Grants, we are promoting universal democratic values and rights that the European cooperation is based on.
Hungary is violating the terms of the agreement for these funds, most of which go to the Hungarian Government. In response, we have suspended all payments to the Hungarian Government, while maintaining the NGO fund. The Hungarian Government has initiated an investigation into the work of the operator of the civil society funds, and has seized sensitive documents. Police action has been taken against the NGO fund supported by Norway. This is an attack on civil society’s independence of the authorities.
Prime Minister Victor Orban’s speech this summer: wants to build a 'spiritual Iron Dome' against foreign influence, break with the dogmas and ideologies accepted in Western Europe and instead establish an illiberal state. In the same speech, he attacked the Norwegian Government for funding Hungarian NGOs, claiming we are financing political activists to further our own interests.
For decades, the EU has been the strongest impetus for democratic change and respect for human rights in Europe. As we approach the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should demonstrate clearly that we will not accept the re-establishment of an illiberal state in Europe. Europe should not only allow diversity. Europe should encourage diversity.
It is our common responsibility to stand up for democratic principles when they are threatened. We must have the courage to raise our voices. There is a lot at stake.