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Debate on Hungarian Representation at Debate on State of Rule of Law in Hungary

Fanni Kaszás 2020.05.13.

On Thursday, the European Parliament will hold a debate on the state of the rule of law in Hungary. Yesterday, Justice Minister Judit Varga claimed that the EP wants to discuss the case without allowing the country’s government to present its standpoint, “at a time when thousands die and millions lose their jobs in Europe every day.” However, yesterday evening, EP president David Sassoli addressed a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in which he said the European Parliament is ready to listen to the Prime Minister in the debate on Hungary. But the Hungarian government still doubts it can present its standpoint as the PM doesn’t plan to travel due to coronavirus-related issues in Hungary.

Tomorrow, the European Council and the Commission will present a statement on ‘Emergency Legislation in Hungary and its impact on the Rule of Law and fundamental rights’ in front of the plenary of the European Parliament. Yesterday, Justice Minister Judit Varga said that although the EP will debate whether Hungary’s law on combating the coronavirus epidemic lives up to democratic standards, Socialist EP President David Sassoli refused to give speaking time to Hungary’s justice minister at the meeting “in an official letter,” citing internal procedural regulations.

Justice Minister: EP to ‘Judge’ Hungary without Hearing Its Gov’t

Yesterday evening, however, Sassoli addressed a letter to the Prime Minister of Hungary, saying that he “considers it a positive thing that on such an important occasion, the Members of the European Parliament could also listen to the voice of the Hungarian Government and I encourage it.” However, he added that according to the “established practice for such kind of debates, the appropriate level of participation is that of Head of State or Government.” Thus, the European Parliament is ready to hear Hungary’s stance on the matter, presented by Prime Minister Orbán in Brussels.

Justice minister to represent Hungary

In his response letter to the invitation to the plenary session by EP President David Maria Sassoli, PM Orbán wrote that Justice Minister Judit Varga will represent the Hungarian government. The Justice Minister also posted the letter on Facebook.

In the letter, Orbán said that all his “strength and energy is absorbed in efforts against the coronavirus epidemic,” thus he is sending Justice Minister Varga to the plenary session and requested Sassoli to allow Varga an opportunity to address the plenary dedicated to developments in Hungary, “in view of the fact that a Secretary of State will be present on behalf of the Presidency of the European Council.”

Varga: Brussels should listen to Hungary’s stance as well

The Minister of Justice appeared on Wednesday on public Kossuth Radio’s “Good Morning Hungary” program, in which she said she continues to expect Brussels to give the Hungarian government the opportunity to express its position in the European Parliament (EP) plenary debate on Hungary.

She explained however, that it is still questionable whether she could contribute to the debate on the Hungarian coronavirus law, even though all the principles of the rule of law, fair procedure, and democracy would require the possibility of it. These are basic values, which are “constantly and hypocritically” requested from Hungary.

In the featured photo illustration: PM Orbán speaking at the EP’s debate on rule of law in Hungary in 2018. Photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Press Office