Sunday

25th Jun 2017

Hungarian judicial reform has 'loopholes'

  • Small details render Hungary's judicial reform proposals problematic, says the the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Photo: Scott*)

Hungarian reform proposals designed to revamp controversial judiciary legislation contain loopholes.

Laws that forced senior Hungarian judges into early retirement drew a barrage of criticism from the European Commission as well as the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe (CoE), last year.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But while Budapest tabled legislation to repeal them in December, a rule in its latest proposals says the judges are not allowed to reassume any leadership positions.

“It’s a loophole if the intention is to replace the entire judicial leadership,” Andras Kadar, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee in Budapest, told this website on Tuesday (29 January).

The draft legislation is set for debate in the next few weeks but Kadar called the provision “dangerous because it means any judicial leader can be dismissed at a relatively low cost.”

The fundamental law that sparked the protest lowered the mandatory retirement age of judges to 62 from 70 in January 2012 and affected mostly senior judges with rank.

Hungary’s Constitutional Court found the mandatory retirement age unconstitutional in July and had them abolished.

The Venice Commission - an advisory body of the Council of Europe on constitutional matters – had also slammed the law, noting that it introduces “a unique system of judicial administration, which exists in no other European country.”

Another loophole was also introduced that props up the oversight powers of the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO), who is charge of court administration under the supervision of the National Judicial Council.

“The problem here is that the National Judicial Council is obliged to agree on its [own] budget with the president. So the NJO president has a say in the budget of the body that is there theoretically to control it,” said Kadar.

Meanwhile, Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the CoE, presented on Tuesday the results of extensive dialogues with top Hungarian officials.

The CoE chief told journalists that a number of important advances were made since the launch of discussions in March last year and that the NJO is now more accountable for his or her actions.

“The outcome of our dialogue with the Hungarian authorities will in effect mean fewer powers and more accountability for the President of the National Judicial Office,” said Jagland.

The watchdog says the NJO President can no longer be re-elected for a second term and must answer to queries made by MPs concerning his or her duties.

The National Judicial Council may now also issue an annual performance opinion on the NJO president's judicial appointments. The council would also have the power to veto the president's decisions.

But despite the advances, the NJO president is still entitled to move cases from one court to another, a provision previously condemned by the Venice Commission, pointed out Kadar.

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.

Border management going virtual

EU leaders at a summit in Brussels are set to endorse new border control measures, while the head of a Tallinn-based EU agency predicts a future where border management goes virtual.

Interview

EU visa waiver unlikely to import Ukraine crime

Visa-free travel, which began last week, unlikely to prompt a Ukrainian crime wave, an EU police expert has said, but Ukraine itself is seeing increases in lawlessness.

Opinion

Why Schengen deserves to be saved

Far-right parties around Europe have managed to turn the passport-free Schengen area into a game of political hot potato despite its numerous benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit