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Legality of Sargentini Report Adoption to be Decided in October

Fanni Kaszás 2020.06.30.

Back in 2018, the Hungarian government turned to the Court of Justice of the European Union because it disputed the legality of the adoption of the Sargentini report in the European Parliament. The hearing of the legal challenge was scheduled for Monday. The trial has essentially revolved around the position of the European Parliament, according to which the Hungarian government’s action is premature, because there is no legal act that can be challenged in court. Michal Bobek, the Czech Advocate General of the Judicial Council, will deliver his opinion on the case on October 12th, and the verdict will be announced at a later date.

On September 12, 2018, the European Parliament adopted the Sargentini report with 448 votes in favor, 197 against, and 48 abstentions. After the decision, the Hungarian government turned to the Court of Justice of the European Union because they disputed the legality of the adoption, complaining that the EP had violated voting rules, as there were not enough “yes” votes to adopt the resolution.

Fact

The report prepared by Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini, aimed to trigger an Article 7 procedure against Hungary with the aim 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.

They debated that the adoption of the report required the support of the European Parliament by two-thirds. According to the EP, this was achieved, as the rules of procedure state that abstentions do not have to be taken into account, so the 376 votes represent a two-thirds majority. However, according to the Hungarian government, when counting the abstentions, a total of 462 “yes” votes would have been needed, so there was not enough support for the adoption.

The European Court of Justice scheduled to hear Hungary’s legal challenge against the report yesterday. Back on Sunday, Justice Minister Judit Varga said that the “deceitful” Sargentini report critical of the rule of law in Hungary had been pushed through by the European Parliament’s “pro-migration majority” in an attempt to try to influence the country’s immigration policy.

Justice Minister: ‘Deceitful’ Sargentini Report Passed by ‘Pro-Migration EP Majority’

Varga added that the Hungarian government will show up for Monday’s hearing with firm and strong legal arguments, adding that hopefully EU institutions will respect the principles of the rule of law “the same way they expect others to.”

The trial on Monday has essentially revolved around the position of the European Parliament, according to which the Hungarian government’s action is premature, because there is no legal act that can be challenged. They argue that the Sargentini report is just a call on the members of the Council to continue the Article 7 procedure, and that only a possible decision could be challenged, even on the basis of objections to the vote. Although several hearings have already taken place in the Council of the European Union, no decision has yet to be made whether to continue or close the procedure. At the same time, the Hungarian government does not agree with this argument. The court can make three types of decisions: they can declare the Hungarian action inadmissible, admissible but unfounded, and admissible and well-founded.

Balázs Lehóczki, a spokesman for the European Court of Justice, said that Michal Bobek, the Czech Advocate General of the Judicial Council, will deliver his opinion on the case on October 12th, and the verdict will be announced at a later date.

featured photo: Patrick Seeger/MTI/EPA