Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

Hungary legal challenge on rule of law 'unfounded'

  • Viktor Orban (c). His Hungarian government is in a showdown with both EU Commission, other member states (except Poland) over its disregard for the rule of law (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

An opinion at the European Court of Justice has delivered a blow to Budapest in a case pressed by disgraced former Hungarian MEP József Szájer.

An advocate-general at the European Court of Justice on Thursday (3 December) advised his peers to toss out the Hungarian government's challenge against a European Parliament resolution.

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  • Fidesz MEP József Szájer was forced to resign earlier this week (Photo: European Parliament)

"Although the action is admissible, it is nevertheless unfounded," said Michael Bobek, an advocate general tasked to issue opinions on cases before they are heard by the judges.

The 2018 resolution sought to restrict Hungary's voting rights at the EU level due to its backsliding on the rule of law, fundamental rights, and democracy.

It passed with 448 MEPs in favour, 197 against, and 48 abstentions.

At the time of the vote in 2018, Szájer disputed the final tally.

He claimed the European Parliament had violated voting rules by not counting abstained MEPs - an argument underpinning Hungary's legal actions but now dismissed by Bobek.

Szájer is a close ally of Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban and a founding member of the ruling Fidesz party.

He also this weekend resigned as an MEP after police found him with an illegal drug at a party where gay men were having sex in Brussels in violation of Belgium Covid-19 social distancing rules and curfews.

Such actions made press headlines given Szájer's anti-LGBTi and conservative marriage views back home.

Hungary's government spokesperson, Zoltan Kovacs, had also weighed in on the vote at the time, claiming it was tantamount to fraud.

But this court opinion now pours cold water on those assertions.

Advocate general Bobek summarily dismantled each of the points put forward by the Hungarian government in its legal challenge, noting abstentions did not have to be counted.

Opinions put forward by advocate generals are non-binding but frequently align to court judgements later on.

The latest development comes as Hungary and Poland continue to block the seven-year EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund, that seeks to help governments across Europe deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Both countries are upset about imposing rule of law conditions on the €1.8 trillion long-term budget.

In arguments similar to those made over the European Parliament's resolution, Hungary describes the measures as political 'Trojan horses'.

The showdown over the budget has also intensified animosity towards Fidesz's continuing membership (albeit suspended) of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP).

Fidesz belongs to the EPP, which is the largest political grouping in the European Parliament.

But dozens of EPP members are pressing to expel the head of the Fidesz delegation, Tamás Deutsch.

The demand follows comments made by Deutsch, described as verbal abuse by the MEPs.

Deutsch had invoked both the Gestapo and Hungarian secret police, in comparisons for the EPP's group leader, Germany's Manfred Weber.

Deutsch claims the row is part of a wider punitive plot over Hungary and Poland's refusal to accept the linkage of rule of law to the EU budget.

"What some now plan against me, they will seek to do against Hungary, too; they want to punish us for so-called reasons," he said, in a press statement.

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