Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Pegasus spyware makers grilled by MEPs

"We will not continue to work with a customer that is targeting a journalist illegally," Chaim Gelfand, chief compliance officer of NSO Group told MEPs — but shed little light on EU governments' use of its Pegasus spyware.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us