Thursday

8th Dec 2016

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debated on the Future of the EU at the Winter Mingle
  2. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  3. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  5. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  7. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  8. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  9. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  10. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  11. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  12. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children