Friday

16th Nov 2018

Human rights watchdog criticised for Hungary analysis

  • Hungarian police fined over 2,000 homeless people between March and November 2012 (Photo: Axel Buhrmann)

The president of a EU-wide network against homelessness has slammed Europe's human rights watchdog for its recent analysis of Hungary’s constitutional changes.

“We find it quite shocking that the Venice commission came to the conclusion that the amendment to the Hungarian constitution that criminalises homelessness in public space is seen as perfectly okay,” said Freek Spinnewijn, president of the Brussels-based European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless, on Friday (26 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Venice Commission is an expert body composed of former constitutional judges in the Council of Europe, which monitor human rights abuses across the continent.

In a technical note about Hungary’s fourth amendment, the Venice commission says the constitution neither aims to criminalise homeless people nor does it contain a general prohibition regarding homelessness.

Instead, the commission notes that Hungary has the right to adopt a restrictive regulation in the interest of public order, public safety, public health and cultural values.

The Venice commission said it is “probably” okay to prohibit people from living on a permanent basis in the metro or the train station in Budapest or at public areas around the Parliament.

But it is not okay to ban them from living in “an inhabited area without any cultural values”, it says.

The technical note does not elaborate what it means by "cultural values" but Spinnewijn calls the commission’s interpretation archaic.

He says there are simply not enough beds in Budapest and people are forced to live on the streets and will naturally congregate around areas where there is shelter like at the train station.

“It seems the homeless have the right to stay on derelict land somewhere. It’s as if there is no habitation then there could be no cultural values attached to it and there homeless people could be free to live,” says Spinnewijn.

Spinnewijn says a reaction from one the NGO’s Hungarian chapters notes that the new law submitted to the Parliament also contains a provision on illegal constructions. He says most people living in uninhabited places will be persecuted because of it.

The technical note points out that Hungary is not alone in prohibiting homeless people from living in certain public spaces. It says Belgium has a law that forbids people to set up and live in tents in inhabited areas and cities.

Similar restrictions are applied in the Czech Republic as well, it notes.

But Spinnewijn says the legal basis for the criminalization of homeless people in Belgium “is totally different than it is in Hungary.”

“I would have expected a slightly deeper and more thorough analysis from the Venice Commission,” he says.

Response to Hungary is test for EU

Faced with a deteriorating situation on human rights and democracy in Hungary, Brussels has failed to show the necessary resolve.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press

Romania's data protection authority has threatened a €20m fine against reporters investigating high-level corruption. The European Commission has since issued a warning, telling Romanian authorities to give press exemptions when it comes to privacy rights.

Romania 'using EU data protection law to silence journalists'

An award-winning journalism outlet in Romania is being threatened with fines by the country's data protection authorities - for having disclosed connections, on Facebook, of powerful politicians and a firm embroiled in scandal.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  2. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  3. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  4. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  5. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  6. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  7. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  8. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  2. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  3. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  4. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  5. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  6. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  7. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot
  8. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us