Sunday

19th Nov 2017

Hungary PM dismisses law reform criticism

  • Orban brushed aside international criticism on recent reforms to the constitution (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday (14 March) brushed aside criticism that recent changes to the constitution would undermine democracy.

“Who will be able to present even one single point of evidence, fact which could be a basis for an argument that what we are doing is against democracy?” he told reporters in Brussels.

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.

Hungarian lawmakers introduced an amendment on Monday that pro-right groups say rollback the democratic oversight of the constitutional court. The court can no longer refer to cases prior to January 2012 as a basis for its interpretation of fundamental laws.

Berlin-based Transparency International says the power grab is an invitation for lobbying by special interests or government intervention.

“Legislation enabling arbitrary interference within the judicial process undermines public trust in the fairness of procedures,” said Miklos Ligeti, legal director of Transparency International Hungary, in a statement.

Other impositions of the amendment include a ban on sleeping in the streets, status of churches, a more limited definition of family through marriage and restrictions on political campaign adverts to public service media during elections.

The constitutional court had them all annulled.

But the changes, and others, voted through by a parliament dominated by Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party, unravel the court’s decisions.

For his part, Orban said the parliament did not adopt any legislation that would limit the powers of the constitutional court.

“We had to amend the constitution because the constitutional court requested it from the parliament,” he said.

The constitutional court in December modified several so-called transitional provisions of the new constitution. It said some of those provisions were in fact substantial and should be introduced into basic law.

Parliamentary debates on the provisions kicked off in the first week of February, with the month-long debate drawing no international criticism until a few days before the vote.

“A day from the vote I get a call from Brussels to stop the vote. Isn’t this absurd?” said Orban.

The opposition, for its part, walked out in protest and placed black flags on the windows.

Orban’s government is accused of strategically placing political supporters in key posts in public institutions.

The head of the powerful media council is a former Fidesz minister, appointed by Orban and elected by a two-third majority vote in parliament.

“If you say one by one we run the institutions then you are right because we reformed everything, the labour market, the civic [code], penalty [code], the constitution,” said Orban.

The human rights watchdog the Council of Europe first flagged the issue over the amendment last week, followed by critical statements from the United States and the EU.

On Thursday in Berlin, the EU justice commissioner Vivianne Reding told reporters that the Brussels-executive is following events closely.

She said the commission could initiative infringement proceedings, if necessary.

Under EU rules, Hungary could even be stripped of its voting rights under article 7 of the EU treaty, in what she called the “nuclear option.”

“At Barroso’s request, we are going to use all the instruments that are available,” Reding’s spokesperson told this website.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz, for his part, also invoked the article 7 procedure against Hungary.

He noted that the EU must first prove beyond a doubt that Hungary’s legal justifications are not in line with European law.

Opinion

Time to suspend Orban's EU voting rights

The time has come to react to Viktor Orban's trampling of EU values in Hungary by suspending his voting rights. His own group, the EPP, must get on board, writes Liberal group chief Guy Verhofstadt.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

EU Commission to target fake news

Mariya Gabriel, the EU digital economy commissioner, announces expert panel and says fake news can be tackled if people are given credible and diverse information.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse