25th Sep 2023

EU Parliament joins court case against Hungary's anti-LGBTI law

  • Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are all set to back the EU Commission in court against Hungary (Photo: Norbu Gyachung)
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The European Parliament's committee on legal affairs on Tuesday (21 March) voted in favour of the parliament joining the EU Commission's case against Hungary over its anti-LGBTI law.

MEPs said the vote was carried by 18 votes in favour and two against, although the itself vote happened in camera, and is supposed to be confidential.

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French liberal MEP Pierre Karleskind, a member of the committee, who initiated the proposal, said it is "a landmark decision".

He said it is "a clear message to national leaders: if you attack the values, you will find the European Parliament in your path".

That law, adopted in 2021, bans showing homosexual content or gender change to under-18s in school sex-education programmes or media that reaches minors.

However, according to the parliament's procedure, the president of the parliament can decide not to follow the recommendation of the committee.

The hard-right government of prime minister Viktor Orbán has argued that the law is intended to protect children against paedophiles.

The government then sought to have a referendum on the issue — but failed to muster enough votes for it to be valid — yet it has used the results to underpin its argument ever since.

The commission started a probe into the law, which commission president Ursula von der Leyen described as "shameful", and then launched a case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

'Extremely rare'

"It is extremely rare for the European Parliament to intervene in a case where it does not have a direct stake," John Morijn, a law and politics professor at the University of Groningen, told EUobserver.

"It is a political decision to take a different line and to support the EU Commission and a number of member states in this case to highlight the significance of it," Morijn added, saying the decision was likely made easier for the parliament because several member state governments had already backed the commission.

Ireland, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are all set to back the commission at the court, and present their arguments supporting the case against Hungary.

Morijn said the parliament's decision is the result of "an accumulation of other cases against Hungary".

"It is also a statement by the parliament in legal terms, saying enough is enough, this is the political message of this," the professor added.

He highlighted that it is the first occasion that the commission has brought a case based on the values spelled out in Article 2 of the EU Treaty, because the alleged violation "is touching on the very foundations of a union of tolerance and equality".

The court hearing is expected to take place in the second half of the year, and the ruling of the EU's top court is expected next year.

Red lines

In June 2021, as the legislation was adopted in Hungary, Orbán came under fire from fellow EU leaders at their regular Brussels summit, but Hungary's leader did not budge.

Leaders of 17 EU countries published a joint letter vowing to "continue fighting against discrimination towards the LGBTI community," referencing the Hungarian legislation.

Orbán's government has been entangled in separate negotiations with the commission to unblock billion of EU subsidies, which the commission has upheld because of concerns over corruption and judicial independence. Separately, Budapest is also holding up the ratification of Sweden's bid to join Nato.

Diplomats noted that they suspect the legal debate will come down to the dispute over the so-called 'child protection' law, which nevertheless is a red line for the Orbán government.

"If this is a hard red line for the government, it is a hard line in law as well, and this money cannot flow," German Green MEP Daniel Freund told EUobserver last week when asked on the matter.

MEPs to urge block on Hungary taking EU presidency in 2024

"This will be the first time a member state that is under the Article 7 procedure will take over the rotating presidency of the council," French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, the key lawmaker on Hungary, warned.

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