EC sees no “systemic” threat to democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights in Hungary

December 3, 2015

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European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourová says the EC sees no systemic threat to democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary.

Jourová addressed the European Parliament Wednesday evening as part of a debate concerning what many MEPs consider to be Hungary’s “systemic serious breach of the values on which the Union is founded”.

She listed several recent contentious issues that the Commission monitored in Hungary, including the treatment of asylum seekers, segregated education and discrimination of the Roma, the treatment of non-governmental organisations managing Norwegian funds, questionable judgments by the judiciary, state aid to media and for the construction of a nuclear plant, as well as corruption affecting public procurement.

“As these concerns are being addressed by a range of infringement procedures, and as the Hungarian judiciary also has its role to play, the Commission found that conditions to start a rule of law framework procedure are not fulfilled,” said Jourová.

In paragraph 11 of its resolution of 10 June 2015, Parliament urged the Commission to “activate the first stage of the EU framework to strengthen the rule of law, and therefore to initiate immediately an in-depth monitoring process concerning the situation of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary, assessing a potential systemic serious breach of the values on which the Union is founded”.

The Commission was asked to “report back on this matter to Parliament and the Council before September 2015”.

Orbán says EU is retaliating against Hungary for rejecting quota system

Prime Minister Orbán and other senior Hungarian government officials have called the European Commission’s infringement proceedings against Hungary “retaliation” for Hungary’s opposition to the EU’s refugee quota system.

The government this week ratcheted up its campaign against the EU’s quota system. Ruling party Fidesz has been holding town hall-like forums for supporters, has embarked on a nationwide petition-signing campaign, and now has taken out full-page ads criticizing the EU’s quota system in Hungarian newspapers.

The government has also launched kvota.kormany.hu, a website dedicated to convincing Hungarian citizens that EU plans for a mandatory quota system will result in more terrorist attacks.

Is the EU retaliating or is Orbán hiding behind the quota system?

Numerous European Union institutions have taken issue with many of the Orbán government’s actions since it was returned to power in 2010 with a two-thirds parliamentary majority capable of nominating judges and modifying constitutional provisions at the prime minister’s will.

Controversies ranging from issues related to rule of law, corruption and violation of human rights have defined the Orbán government’s perception outside Hungary.

Many of these controversies have become so controversial that European policy-makers and others have started uttering the word “systemic” when referring to the violations of EU values in Hungary.

Hungary is a systemic problem child

While the European Commission avoids using the term “systemic”, its actions tend to show that there is concern for what is happening in Hungary.

Earlier this week, the Commission registered a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) proposing to trigger Article 7 of the Treaty for alleged breaches of the EU’s fundamental values by Hungary. This means that ECI has a one-year process to collect enough signatures in support of launching Article 7.

European Commissioner Tibor Navracsics happened to miss the meeting where the Commission decided to register the initiative. He later criticized the Commission for registering the decision.

Euobserver.com today reported that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has rebuked Navracsics for toeing Budapest’s line in EU affairs.

Navracsics, a longtime Fidesz member, minister of justice under the second Orbán government and briefly foreign minister under the third Orbán government, objected to the Commission’s registration of a European Citizens Initiative.

In his letter to Navracsics, Juncker reminded the Hungarian that “commissioners must not defend the view of the government that proposed their appointment, but must be solely committed to the general interest of the Union”.