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EU Remains Adamant on Rule of Law Procedure after Orbán’s Election Victory in Hungary

Péter Cseresnyés 2022.04.13.

The European Commission has “a heavy dossier” to use as the basis for a formal rule of law procedure on Hungary, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said at a press conference after the meeting of European affairs ministers in Luxembourg, on Tuesday.

According to Reynders, it is important to continue the dialogue on the rule of law, even in a tense international context, in order to show that the EU “has rules of international order, we take these rules seriously, we defend them, and we promote the rule of law.”

The commissioner praised the progress made in Hungary’s digitalization but stressed that the EU still has concerns about the Hungarian judicial system, corruption, media freedom, and the system of checks and balances. Commenting on the state of the Hungarian media, he said that a significant proportion of state advertising continues to allow the Hungarian government to exert indirect political influence. Referring to Klubrádió, he added: “the media authority has also taken away the right of an independent radio station to provide services.”

Commissioner Reynders: EU Will Not Sanction Hungary before Elections
Commissioner Reynders: EU Will Not Sanction Hungary before Elections

Yet Reynders believes there are more problems with Hungary than with Poland, which has already received financial penalties.Continue reading

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier this month that EU funds to Hungary could be suspended due to rule of law violations.

Reynders continued: “The formal proceedings against Hungary, announced  by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week will start in the coming weeks, following an administrative procedure that started last November, but the exact framework of the action will be decided in the course of the procedure.” The EU commissioner stressed that the regulation entered into force on January 1st of last year and that the Commission will therefore take retroactive action.

Reynders also said that the Hungarian election result, which again brought about the victory of the governing Fidesz party, does not mean that there should not be a debate on the rule of law. “The rule of law is also a limit for the majority. It means acting in full respect of other values enshrined in EU treaties and national constitutions,” he stressed. He emphasized that “the Hungarian child protection law is discriminatory towards the LGBTI community and the interests of this minority must also be protected, so a majority in parliament cannot be an explanation for the discrimination.”

Justice Min Varga: EU Applies Double Standards

On Tuesday, prior to the meeting, Hungary’s justice minister said the EU should avoid dividing itself on the rule of law while war rages on its doorstep.

“In these very difficult times we must show solidarity,” Judit Varga told reporters. “We should focus on the issues that unite us rather than on those that create divisions,” she added.

After the meeting of the bloc’s European affairs ministers, Judit Varga said the findings of the European Commission’s country-specific rule of law reports on Hungary and Poland apply double standards.

“The countries that have nationally minded conservative governments can never be good students,” she said, adding that Hungary wanted the EC to acknowledge that Hungarian laws are consistent with European directives.

Justice Min: Hungary and Poland Rule-of-Law Reports Apply Double Standards
Justice Min: Hungary and Poland Rule-of-Law Reports Apply Double Standards

"The countries that have nationally minded conservative governments can never be good students," Varga said after a meeting of the bloc's General Affairs Council in Luxembourg.Continue reading

On April 3, 54 percent of Hungary’s electorate voiced its disagreement with the EC’s concerns over Hungary, the minister said. “Hungarian voters want to keep going in the direction Hungary is headed in; they want Hungary to preserve its national sovereignty, its national identity and self-determination as authorized by the EU treaties,” Varga said.

Regarding the EC’s recent announcement that it will launch the mechanism against Hungary that can suspend transfers of EU funding over rule-of-law violations, Varga said a decision on the launch of the mechanism had yet to be made according to the EC’s organizational and operational regulations. A decision, she added, is set to be made at the end of April.

EP Vice-President: Rule of law procedure against Hungary launched at worst possible time

The European Commission had the opportunity to act a year and a half ago, but with the election success, Viktor Orbán can safely say that Brussels is taking action in retaliation for the decision of Hungarian voters, according to the German Social Democrat Vice-President of the European Parliament.

With his electoral success, the Hungarian Prime Minister is no longer forced to take anyone into account, so Hungary is even more likely to act as an outpost for the Russian leadership, Katarina Barley told the German edition of Buzzfeed.

“Viktor Orbán has been dismantling democracy in his country for twelve years. On top of that, his country is riddled with blatant corruption. European money is seeping into his pockets and those of his family and friends. So the question should rather be, why is this action coming only now?,” the EP Vice-President emphasized.

Featured photo via audiovisual.ec.europa.eu


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