Thursday

17th Oct 2019

Kroes threatens nuclear option against Hungary

The European Commission has indicated it is ready to use its nuclear option - Article 7 on political sanctions - against Hungary if it continues to flout EU law.

In a testy exchange of views between EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes and Hungary's deputy prime minister Tibor Navracsics at a European Parliament committee hearing in Brussels on Thursday (9 February), Kroes said she would ask the commission to take "appropriate action" if needed.

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  • Kroes left the room abruptly, without stopping for normal pleasantries (Photo: European Parliament)

Her spokesperson later confirmed to this website that she means Article 7.

The EU Treaty clause says the commission can trigger a procedure to determine if an EU country is in "serious and persistent breach" of treaty "principles." If found guilty, the other EU member states cans suspend its voting rights in the EU Council.

The Kroes-Navracsics dispute concerns a set of new media laws in Hungary which appear to threaten media diversity.

The commission in January already started a separate legal procedure against Budapest in January over its new constitution, said to undermine the independence of judges and the central bank.

Kroes told Navracsics she expects him to ask the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe for an opinion on the media laws and to implement its recommendations.

With the Strasbourg council already due to publish opinions on the Hungarian constitution in March, Navracsic replied - to a round of laughs - "Only if these proposals do not run counter to the constitution of the Hungarian aquis."

"That is different from what you were answering in my office," Kroes said.

"I beg your pardon, no madame, it's exactly the same thing," Navracsics hit back.

Kroes' remark on "approporiate action" was the last thing she said before the panel discussion ended. She left the room abruptly, without stopping to say goodbye or other pleasantries.

The Council of Europe's spokesman late told this website: "Hungary has yet to request an opinion from us on media."

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