Thursday

23rd Mar 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.

Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

LuxLeaks whistleblowers sentenced again

PwC employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, who revealed how multinational companies dodged taxes through deals in Luxembourg, were given reduced sentences.

EU lawmakers tighten firearm rules

The EU parliament backed a provisional deal with member states to tighten EU gun laws. EU states now have to formally adopt their position before the new legislation is enacted.

EU home to over 5,000 criminal groups

Europol says the figure is more a reflection of an improved intelligence picture rather than an absolute increase in the number of gangs.

News in Brief

  1. British police make first arrests in London terror probe
  2. EU commission has received Facebook reply on WhatsApp
  3. Rome expects thousands of protesters at summit
  4. Dijsselbloem says his comments had 'Dutch directness'
  5. Ukraine spy agency bars Russian Eurovision singer
  6. Turkish president Erdogan threatens Europeans
  7. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  8. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EJCExpresses Concern That Extremists Still Have the Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  3. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  4. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  5. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  7. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  8. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  9. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  11. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  12. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted

Latest News

  1. Poland unlikely to face EU discipline on rule of law
  2. Rutte courted Wilders' voters, now he must deliver
  3. Barnier to UK: trade talks will come after settling accounts
  4. EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times
  5. Terror attack shuts down UK parliament
  6. Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum
  7. La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale
  8. EU doing well in global energy ranking