17th Oct 2019

Hungary responds to EU infringement procedure

Hungary sent around a 100-hundred page response on Friday (17 February) to the European Commission concerning three infringement proceedings launched against the country in January.

The Commission had cast serious doubt on the integrity of Hungary’s national bank and national data protection authority as well as the legality of the country’s mandatory early retirement age for its judges.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Hungary defends contested legislation (Photo: European Commission)

All three are cardinal laws adopted by the Hungarian government parliament in December last year following a revamped constitution over the summer.

“We sent our official replies to the European Commission which is the end of the stage of the first process,” Hungary’s ambassador to the EU told reporters in Brussels adding that it includes both concrete proposals to change its legislation as well as further explanations where they believe no change is required.

The Commission can now either agree with Hungary’s explanation or send a formal request requiring them to comply with EU law. Should Hungary fail to comply with EU law then the Commission can refer the country to the European Court of Justice.

The ambassador said some twenty to thirty pages of the their response outlined reasons why the Hungarians should not have to change certain positions including the oath sworn by the governor of its central bank, the MNB.

The commission views the oath to the Hungarian constitution as a violation because it throws into question the bank’s independence since the governor also sits on the General Council of the European Central Bank (ECB).

But the Hungarians maintain that the oath is valid since their constitution contains a cardinal law that guarantees the bank’s independence.

Hungary also wants to reach a compromise on the early retirement age of judges from 70 to 62. Around 274 judges, including those at the Supreme Court, will be forced to retire if they are above 62.

“It’s a pension-related issue,” said the ambassador explaining that 80 percent of the judges simultaneously draw a salary and a pension.

The Commission believes the compulsory early retirement age is a discrimination that contradicts EU law. The Hungarians stress that the retirement age had always been 62 and that the judges were automatically entitled to work until 70 if they so wished.

The Hungarians want to repeal the automatic entitlement to continue working until 70. Instead, should the judge want to continue to work until 70 then he or she must be seek permission. This, they explain, puts the judges on par with the pension schemes of other high-ranking civil servants and so is no longer discriminatory.

The Hungarians say they are ready to make concessions to guarantee the independence of the data protection authority. The ambassador stressed that any such change is purely “an indication of readiness”.

Hungary had decided to create a new National Agency for Data Protection, replacing the current Data Protection Commissioner’s Office as of 1 January 2012.

The new office terminated, prematurely, the six-year term of the current ombudsman who had been appointed in 2008. The new rules also entitled the prime minister and president to dismiss the new supervisor on arbitrary grounds, argue the Commission.

The Hungarian’s responded by claiming they had openly consulted the terminated ombudsman and are willing to modify the legislation if necessary.

Separately, they also responded to two letters sent by EU justice commissioner Vivian Reding and EU digital affairs commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Reding’s letter raised issues over the independence of the judiciary but the ambassador said her concerns “simply do not reflect the real content of the legislation”.

As for Kroes’ letter on the media, the Hungarian government said it would submit amendments to the parliament following the ruling of the constitutional court in December.

MEPs voice 'serious concern' on Hungary's democracy

The EU parliament has passed a resolution tabled by left-wing and liberal deputies urging Hungary to respect EU laws. But the right of the house says it is inappropriate and bad on timing.

EU to freeze millions for Hungary over deficit

Hungary on Wednesday was given less than a year to lower its public deficit or have a third of its EU subsidies slashed, amounting to €495 million. It is the first time the EU commission takes such an action.

EU gives Hungary one month to fix laws

The EU commission on Wednesday gave Hungary a one-month deadline to change its controversial laws or face court cases in Luxembourg, just as Budapest is struggling to secure a loan from international lenders.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us