EU action over Hungary's constitution


THE EUROPEAN Parliament has expressed its “serious concern” about a new constitution in Hungary which some MEPs claim is “in conflict with common European values of freedom and democracy”.

In January the EU Commission gave Hungary one month to present proposals to amend or abolish three of the new constitutional laws, the first two of which affect the independence of the central bank and the independence of a national data office. The third law requires the mandatory retirement of judges and prosecutors at the age of 60, instead of 70.

The month’s deadline expires today, February 17th.

Yesterday the parliament sitting in Strasbourg again called on the Hungarian authorities to amend the laws concerned “and comply with the recommendations, objections and demands of the Commission and the Council of Europe”. The resolution was tabled by the SD, ALDE, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL groups. It was approved with 315 votes in favour, 263 against and 49 abstentions.

The parliament will now draw up a report on whether EU laws and values are respected in Hungary. It will then decide whether to activate EU Treaty Article 7, which is used to investigate a breach of EU common values. The resolution also calls on the European Commission to monitor changes to Hungary’s laws and their implementation.

Parliament also instructed the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, in co-operation with the commission and the Council of Europe to follow up on what if any notice the Hungarian Government had taken of the EU concern.

Issues monitored are to include judicial independence; the regulation of the Hungarian National Bank and the institutional independence of data protection.

Also to be addressed are the right and ability of Hungary’s constitutional court to review any legislation, including the right to review budgetary and tax laws. A further element is to ensure that media freedom and pluralism is guaranteed “by the letter of the Hungarian Media Law” among other freedoms.

Guy Verhofstadt ALDE group Leader said members had confirmed their “commitment to fighting any violation by a member state or government against our common European values of freedom and democracy.” This is a vote in defence of the Hungarian citizens, and those across the EU that face similar threats to their liberty and checks and balances of the democratic system.

The new Hungarian constitution was approved by its national parliament in April 2011 and became law on January 1st, 2012.

On January 17th the European Commission started infringement procedures with regard to the independence of the central bank, the lowering of the mandatory retirement age of judges from 70 to 62, and the independence of the data protection authority. The commission asked the Hungarian authorities for more information on the independence of the judiciary.