Saturday

21st Apr 2018

Draft EU report calls for sanctions on Hungary

  • Rapportuer Judith Sargentini is presepnting her report on Hungary (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU should launch a sanctions procedure against Hungary because of a "clear risk of a serious breach" of the bloc's basic values, a draft report by a European Parliament (EP) committee published on Thursday (12 April) said.

The report detailed the curtailed rights of the constitutional court, stricter control over the courts, the curbing of freedom of expression, a biased media council, the financing of newspapers through state advertisement, the threat to academic freedom, and the rights of migrants as some of the issues where the report concluded a serious deterioration in fundamental rights and the rule of law.

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.

The civil rights committee was tasked by the EP plenary last May to examine the situation in Hungary, and whether the Article 7 sanctions procedure, which in the end could result in the suspension of Hungary's voting rights, should be launched.

Dutch green MEP Judith Sargentini, twho drafted the report said these added up to a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values by the government of prime minister Viktor Orban, who won a third term in office by a landslide on Sunday.

"It is shocking how many warnings have been given since 2010. The time for issuing warnings has passed," Sargentini said.

"This is ... about the way Hungary is treating its citizens," she insisted.

Dutch liberal MEP Sophia in 't Veld argued in the committee that launching the Article 7 procedure against Hungary "is long overdue" as Orban has been steadily undermining checks and balances and silencing critical voices.

"If Hungary were to apply today [for EU membership], we wouldn't accept Hungary as a member," she said.

Kinga Gal, from Orban's Fidesz party, claimed that the committee's report called into question Sunday's election results.

"My problem with this committee, this debate and the rapporteur is that they don't want to accept the unquestionable decision of the Hungarian citizens who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Hungarians government's path," she told reporters after the debate in the committee.

"We are being punished because we have stood up against mandatory relocation of migrants into Hungary," she said.

Gal said that even though no journalist has been killed and no demonstration smashed in Hungary, it is always the Orban government that is being put on the spot in Europe.

Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto labelled the committee's draft report a "Soros-report", in reference to US Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, whom the Hungarian government has labelled as the biggest threat to the country.

"Four days passed since the elections, but it was enough for Brussels to attack Hungary again," Szijjarto said on Thursday at a press conference in Hungary.

Sargentini told reporters after the debate that she could not have known the result of the Hungarian election in advance while she was preparing the report.

The committee will vote on the draft report in June, and a vote by the parliament's plenary is expected in September.

It is unlikely that calling for Article 7 would be supported by the majority of MEPs, as the largest parliamentary group, the European People's Party, in which the ruling Fidesz party is a member, has until now backed Orban.

Even if the report would end up triggering an Article 7 procedure, it would be up to fellow EU members to state that there was a clear risk of breach of EU values, which is unlikely to happen as EU countries are reluctant to interfere in what they perceive as domestic politics.

Asked what she would tell to those reluctant EU countries, Sargentini said all EU members should only work together with countries that demonstrate solidarity.

"This is not about sovereignty of a state, to be able to take away rights of citizens, that is not your right if you want to be a member of the EU," she said.

The European Commission last year triggered the Article 7 procedure against Poland, where the government has copied many of Orban's policies.

The EU executive however said that there is no systematic threat to the rule of law in Hungary.

Listing 'enemies'

On Thursday a Hungarian pro-government magazine, Figyelo, published more than 200 names of people it claims are part of a group that Orban calls "mercenaries" paid by Soros to topple the government.

The names include staff members of rights organisations such as Amnesty International, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, refugee advocates, investigative journalists and staff from the Soros-founded Central European University in Budapest.

Orban has threatened with "moral, political and legal amends" against rivals after the election. He also claimed there are 2,000 members of the "Soros mercenary army" paid to bring down his government and turn Hungary into an immigrant country.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress

Italians, Czechs and Latvians perceive less corruption than a few years ago in Transparency International's annual ranking. The Berlin-based NGO said Finland was a 'worrying case', whilst Bulgaria - which holds the EU presidency - is EU's most corrupt.

New Polish PM visits Hungary in snub to Brussels

In his first official bilateral visit since taking office, Poland's new prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki travels to Budapest, which vowed to defend Warsaw from any EU sanctions over its judicial reforms.

Analysis

New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

The EU's latest funding rules for European political parties and their think tanks fails to address the underlying problems of abuse. Instead of tackling the loans and donations culture, it has simply made access to EU funds a lot easier.

MEPs set limits to Macron's ambitions

The French president tried to woo the European Parliament but found that his quest for leadership will have to abide by the rules set by the European political groups.

Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study

On Thursday, the European Parliament will vote on a political deal on organic farming, following 19 months of behind-closed-doors negotiations. EUobserver here details a five-month odyssey to get access to the secret documents that led to the deal.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights