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6th Jul 2020

MEPs to discuss civil liberties in Hungary

  • Orban (l) is a member of the EU's largest political group, the centre-right EPP, as are many other EU leaders, like former Polish PM Tusk - now EU council president (Photo: premier.gov.pl)

Political leaders in the European Parliament decided Thursday (30 April) that the legislature should discuss Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban's recent comments about reintroducing the death penalty, and a controversial Hungarian government survey on immigration.

Parliament president Martin Schulz, and the heads of the EP's seven political groups, convened on Thursday morning to urge the parliament's civil liberties committee to "address the situation in Hungary as a matter of urgency".

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On Tuesday (28 April) Orban said a possible reintroduction of capital punishment “should be put on the agenda in Hungary”.

Hungary abolished the death penalty in 1990.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, to which all EU countries are a signatory, prohibits reintroducing the death penalty.

Non-EU-member Belarus is the only country on the European continent that has capital punishment. (And Kazakhstan, which is partly in Asia).

Schulz noted that reintroduction of the death penalty “is not compatible with EU membership".

On Thursday afternoon Schulz announced he and Orban had "an open and frank phone conversation" - terminology often used to indicate disagreement.

"Prime Minister Orban assured President Schulz that the Hungarian government has no plans to take any steps to introduce the death penalty. Prime Minister Orban further assured the President that the Hungarian government will respect and honour all European treaties and legislation", the statement from Schulz read.

MEPs are also worried about a questionnaire on migration, with "leading and manipulative” questions such as whether “the mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism”.

According to an EP statement, Schulz will contact the chair of the civil liberties committee, British socialist Claude Moraes.

The MEP's office told this website on Thursday afternoon that the two had not yet spoken.

The first scheduled meeting of the civil liberties committee is on Wednesday (6 May) in Brussels, but it is not yet clear if 'Hungary' will be put on the agenda then.

EPP membership

The issue was briefly discussed Wednesday at the parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg.

Left-wing and liberal members of the parliament criticised the leader of the centre-right group EPP, German MEP Manfred Weber.

Orban's Fidesz party has been a member of the EPP since 2000, a fact that has often led to criticism of the largest parliamentary group in the past.

Several MEPs from other groups on Wednesday called on Weber to expel Fidesz.

“I'm going to speak to Mr Orban. I'm not going to rely on press articles”, said Weber.

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