Tuesday

20th Feb 2018

Hungary law reform sparks protest, criticism

  • Hungarian lawmakers want to redefine family and ban sleeping in the streets (Photo: Axel Buhrmann)

Hungarian lawmakers are set to vote in 14 pages of constitutional amendments on Monday (11 March) which critics say may undermine rule of law.

The amendments would curtail the power of the constitutional court and annul all decisions made before the launch of the new constitution in January 2012.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Some of those decisions include limiting political campaign ads in commercial media, introducing a conservative definition of family and allowing the top prosecutor to select judges in cases.

Other proposals include outlawing sleeping on the streets and a law requiring state-sponsored university students to remain inside the country upon graduation.

Thousands in Budapest took to the streets in protest over the weekend against the new measures.

If voted through, the laws could set a new collision course between the European Commission and Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The two had already clashed when Orban’s two-third’s majority parliament revamped the constitution in 2011 and introduced a series of cardinal laws said by the commission to be violating EU principles of democracy.

Brussels introduced infringement procedures against Hungary in January 2012 on new laws concerning the retirement ages of judges, independence of the central bank and the independence of the data protection agency.

Commission chief Barroso called Orban on Friday in a bid to delay the vote and allow greater scrutiny into the proposed amendments.

The Prime Minister pledged “full commitment” to European norms and rules in a letter addressed to Barroso following the telephone conversation.

Hungary’s foreign minister Janos Martonyi in a separate letter on Friday addressed to his EU counterparts noted that the amendments conform to EU norms, reports the Financial Times.

“My government has given ample evidence of its spirit of co-operation whenever the competent European institution ... have scrutinised or even challenged Hungarian legislation,” said Martonyi.

Some critics had already raised the alarm earlier last week.

Human rights watchdog Council of Europe (CoE) issued a statement on 6 March calling upon the Hungarian government to postpone Monday’s vote.

CoE secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland said the “Hungarian government is reintroducing the transitional provisions which were annulled by the constitutional court.”

He noted that the proposed amendments give the impression that the government is willing to use the two-thirds parliamentary majority to overrule the constitutional court.

Meanwhile, a handful of member states are calling upon the commission to introduce a new leverage against "errant" governments, reports Bloomberg News.

The foreign ministers of Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark in a letter to Barroso asked the commission to help “create a culture of respect for the rule of law.”

Bloomberg, which obtained a copy of the letter, said the ministers said the EU should be allowed to impose financial penalties for breaches of basic values.

Greek EU commissioner challenges bribery allegations

Dimitris Avramopoulos says he will mount a legal challenge to reveal the identities of people behind allegations that he, along with other former Greek ministers, had accepted money from a Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

Rights watchdog to visit Turkey over rule of law

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, is heading to Ankara next week. The trip follows new plans by Ankara to meet EU demands for reforms in areas like anti-terror legislation.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs approve anti-smuggling bill on tobacco
  2. SPD members start voting on new Merkel-led government
  3. Barroso lobbied Katainen for Goldman Sachs
  4. Berlusconi's coalition ahead with 34.7% support
  5. Moscovici: Greece '99 percent' there to get new bailout
  6. Simone Veil to enter France's Pantheon in July
  7. German poll puts far-right AfD ahead of SPD for first time
  8. Commissioners poised to join EU-Mexico trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. Tomorrow the Brussels Pre-Event
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  3. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  4. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  6. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  7. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  12. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February

Latest News

  1. Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me
  2. A European budget: securing a prosperous future for Europe
  3. Poland wrong to log in ancient forest, says EU lawyer
  4. EU taxpayers risk bailing out MEP pension scheme
  5. Commissioner Katainen confirms Barroso lobbied him
  6. Eurogroup chief pledge on transparency after meeting MPs
  7. Poland shows no sign of concessions to Commission
  8. Spain's De Guindos to be ECB vice-president