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European Commission Launches New Infringement Procedures Against Hungary

By Tamás Székely // 2016.05.27.

The European Commission (EC) said it stepped up new infringement procedures against Hungary, one for the restrictions on farmlands and another one for the segretgation of Roma children in schools.


“Hungary has a very restrictive system which imposes a complete ban on the acquisition of land by legal entities and an obligation on the buyer to farm the land himself,” the European Commission said.

Rules on farmland purchases “must be proportionate and cannot be discriminatory towards other EU citizens” if they are to comply with EU law, it added. The EC formally requested that Hungary amend legislation on the restrictions in a “reasoned opinion”, marking the second step in an infringement procedure. The procedure was launched a little more than a year ago.

If Hungary fails to comply within two months, the EC may refer Hungary to the EU’s Court of Justice. The EC said it also sent reasoned opinions on similar restrictions on the sale of farmland to Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia.

School Segregation

The European Commission has also launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the segregation of Roma children in schools. EC has sent a warning letter to Hungary calling on the government to bring Hungarian legislation on equal treatment and education in line with EU directives on racial equality, commission spokesman Christian Wigand told a press conference.

The enforcement in practice of these education policies should also be ensured, he said. The commission has expressed concern over Hungarian legislation and administrative practices on several counts, as it found that based on these regulations Roma children are placed in segregated special needs classes in disproportionately high numbers in Hungary, the commission said in a statement.

The statement said that the aim of the procedure was to ensure that Roma children can take part in highquality education under the same conditions as other children, as this determines their participation in work opportunities which is necessary for the full social integration of the Roma population. Answering a question, Wigand said similar procedures had been launched against the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the past two years.

If Hungary does not provide a satisfactory response to the commission’s official request within two months, the procedure could be taken to the next level, the issuing of a “reasoned opinion”.

Hungarian reaction

Commenting on the segregation-related procedure, János Lázár, the Minister heading Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Office said that the procedure is absurd because the Hungarian State does not keep records of any child’s origin. „I have no idea how the European Commission knows which child is Roma and which child is not” as it is forbidden to keep such records under the laws of Hungary, he added. He remarked that the Brussels procedure has been instituted on the basis of a report filed by Hungarian organisations.

The Hungarian government is ready to engage in a discussion with the European Commission as to how to give children the best possible chance to integrate, Lázár said. To this end, the Brussels body must first familiarise itself with the programmes currently underway in Hungary which have been declared exemplary in the EU, he added. He further reiterated that Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog made efforts to clarify the situation in person in Brussels last week. „At this point in time, we do not understand what the European Commission’s specific problem is”, Lázár said.

Regarding the land issue Cabinet Chief János Lázár said that the Hungarian and the Brussels positions were far apart because the Hungarian legislature – in contrast to the European Commission’s view – decided that foreigners and business associations are not allowed to buy land in Hungary. On this issue, there will be major debates, nothing short of a “war”, he said.

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