On Friday, leaders of the Christian Democrat, Socialist, Liberal, Green, and Left factions of the House of Representatives wrote to Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Croatia’s state secretary for European affairs, who are currently holding the EU presidency, to express their concerns about the ineffectiveness of the rule of law procedure. The five factions timed the delivery of their letter with Tuesday’s meeting of the Article 7 intergovernmental forum, the General Affairs Council. According to Népszava, this was initiated by the Socialists, but even Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP Group of which Fidesz is a member, signed it.
In the document, the group leaders call on a panel of Member State representatives to finally take action. “We are aware of the importance of the negotiations on the next EU budget, but the Council must not ignore the dangers to the Union’s core values, which are at least as significant and permanent,” they say, urging further debates and hearings. Those factions who signed the letter point out that the intergovernmental body undermines common European values, mutual trust, and the credibility of the Union as a whole.
Herman Van Rompuy, leader of the so-called three wise men, an EPP committee assessing Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, which was suspended from the center-right family last year, said that after the EPP decided this month to prolong the suspension since Fidesz was not willing to give up its position on a number of issues, there was no reason for the EPP to lift the ban of the party's membership rights.
Earlier this month, speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, Chairman of the EPP Group Manfred Weber said he would put the Article 7 procedures against Hungary and Poland on the agenda of the European Council. He said that “it is scandalous that the EC does not deal with Article 7 procedures.”
In September 2018, the European Parliament approved a report prepared by Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini triggering an Article 7 procedure against Hungary. The mechanism aims to uphold the fundamental rights and values of the European Union. The rule states that if these rights are permanently and severely violated, a procedure could be initiated which could even end in one of the most serious political sanctions – a suspension of the member state’s voting rights in the EU. This is why it is often called the EU’s ‘nuclear option.’ While identifying the violation requires unanimity (excluding the accused country), sanctions require only a qualified majority.
The procedure focuses on the state of the freedom of speech, corruption, minority rights, the independence of the judiciary, and the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in the country. The same procedure against Poland was launched in July 2017 and scrutinized the independence of the Polish judiciary.