25th Feb 2024

EU Commission still assessing Hungary's anti-LGBTI law

  • EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders argued that the commission's case needs to be water-tight at the EU's top court - which takes time (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said the EU Commission is contemplating whether to take Hungary to the European Court of Justice over a law that targeted LGBTI people.

"We are now assessing the reply received from Hungary," Reynders said, adding that the EU executive is now deciding whether to take the case to the EU's top court.

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Reynders was giving his update to MEPs on the European Parliament's civil liberties committee on Wednesday (20 April) on legislation passed last June, which bans showing content on homosexuality or gender change to under-18s in school sex-education programmes or media that reaches minors.

A month later, the commission launched legal action against Hungary over the anti-LGBTI legislation, described by the president of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, as a "shame".

In response, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán's government called for a referendum on the legislation, but it failed to muster enough votes earlier this month to be valid.

The referendum, which took place on the same day as Hungary's general election on 3 April, was pushed by the government in an effort to mobilise its base.

Less than half of eligible voters cast valid ballots, rendering the vote non-binding, though more than 90 percent voted in line with the government's campaign.

About 1.6 million votes, or almost a third of the ballots cast, were invalid.

Human rights groups had urged voters to spoil their ballots, warning that the referendum's approval would increase discrimination against the country's LGBTI community.

After the referendum, the National Electoral Commission fined six civil organisations for calling on casting spoiled votes for a total of €24,000. However, later the Supreme Court overturned the decision saying it is not illegal for NGOs to urge invalid votes.

The ruling Fidesz party and Orbán has previously portrayed non-binding referendum outcomes as victories, and pro-government Hungarian media has treated this referendum as such as well.

Hungary is facing several procedures over concerns of democratic backsliding and curbing checks and balance on the government.

Earlier this month von der Leyen said the commission will launch a probe that could end up suspending EU funds to the country.

Several MEPs, including Dutch liberal lawmakers Sophie in't Veld called on the commission to do more Wednesday.

"It is the umpteenth time we are having this debate, and I am tired of it," she said.

"For 12 years this house has been warning about Orbán, and look where we are. He rigged the elections, it is not a legitimate government, he is the agent of [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, and we are talking about 'oh we will send another letter'," she argued.

"We have a duty the rights of all the citizens, we have a duty to protect democracy," in't Veld said, adding: "We have to be a lot more assertive."

On the other hand, Fidesz MEP Balázs Hidvéghi called the hearing in the European Parliament a "session of hate" against Hungary.

He also called the procedures on LGBTI issues an "ideological jihad" against Hungary, saying the voters supported the government's position.

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party won a fourth consecutive two-thirds supermajority in parliament on 3 April.

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