June 30, 2013
Hungary remains a high priority for several International Institutions examining the respect of rule of law (Council of Europe) and the situation of Fundamental Rights (Comission, European Parliament). Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will participate in the European Parliament plenary session to defend his policy against the European criticism on 2 July 2013. He believes that Hungary is victim of international conspiracy of the political left and twisted financial insterests. On the other side, critics often say that the country is close to became a dictatorship and there is serious breaches of Human Rights. I do not share the exaggerations and the truth is in the middle: the constitutional situation in Hungary remains controversial but instead of revolution, the country needs further reforms. Short analysis from a Hungarian legal mind.
1.) Stay of play within the EU and the European Parliament
Background: upwarming discussion in the European Parliament on 17 April 2013.
Hungary witnessed controversial political developments in 2010-2013. The European Parliament expressed its concerns about the constitutional situation in Hungary by adopting its resolution B7-0095/2012. The resolution stresses serious concerns about the practice of democracy, rule of law, human and social rights, checks and balances and equal opportunities in Hungary. Following this move, the plenary session dedicated a short debate on 17 April 2013 about the situation in Hungary where Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (on the photo) gave un update about he past and possible future breaches of EU law by Hungary.
Towards the report on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary
On 6 June 2013, the European Parliament’s committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) discussed and adopted the report by Rui Tavares (The Greens, PT) (on the photo © European Parliament) on the situation of Fundamental Rights: standards and practices in Hungary. The Plenary Session is about to discuss and vote about it. The fact, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will participate in the debate in Strassbourg marks the political importance of the report.
In a recent interview, the rapporteur Rui Tavares highlighted that he is committed to overcome the existing divisions between left and right wing political groups. He underlined this specific issue was not a matter of left and right but of a shared framework of democracy and fundamental rights.
2.) Human rights in a wider European dimension, outside of the EU: the controversial opinion of the Council of Europe on the rule of law in Hungary
We should make a clear distinction between the European Parliament of the European Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The European Parliament is the main political body of the EU which will discuss and vote about Hungary on 2-3 July 2013 meawhile the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is outside the EU and it gave already its opinion.
Earlier the Council of Europe’ expert panel, the so-called Venice Committee, composed of constitutional lawyers expressed its concerns by saying that the constitution “should not be seen as a political instrument,” and that the amendment “seriously undermines the possibilities of constitutional review in Hungary and endangers the constitutional system of checks and balances.”
Moreover, international civil organisations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urged the Council of Europe to support the Monitoring Committee’s recommendation to place Hungary under the Assembly’s monitoring procedure in an open letter recently.
On its 26 June 2013 meeting, while raising in a resolution “serious and sustained concerns” about the extent to which Hungary is still complying with the obligations it took on when it joined the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) decided however not to open a monitoring procedure in respect of the country but resolved “to closely follow the situation” and “to take stock of the progress achieved” in the implementation of the adopted text.
Ten of the Council of Europe’s 47 member states are currently subject to the Assembly’s monitoring procedure (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine) and four are subject to “post-monitoring dialogue” (Bulgaria, Monaco, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Turkey).
Instead of revolution, we need evolution and reforms in Hungary
While I intend to closely follow the political debate in the European Parliament, the future decisions of the Commission about further infridgement procedures and Hungary’s future steps, I do believe: Hungarian people are fed up with the continous tensions and the country does not need further freedom fight. I hope both the Hungarian government and the international players will find a compromise and common understanding about Fundamental Rights and instead of further conflicts, the international cooperation will facilitate the true reforms which the country urgently needs.
Hungary as the black sheep of the EU?
We are still in the middle of an international process so it would be premature to judge the situation. As we saw, the Council of Europe already expressed its concerns but did not enter into a formal procedure. The EU is still divided over the Hungarian constitutional situtation: the European People’s Party (EPP) affiliated Hungarian government talks about political conspiracy of the international left. On the other side, critics say that the country do not respect Fundamental Rights and the Rule of law and it is likely to became a dictatorship. I think both statements are exagerated and although the country’s constitutional situation remains unclear and controversial, the governments understood the seriousness of the critics, and it will make the necessary changes to normalise the situation.
The earlier Hungary will return to the European family the better. Both sides must understand it.
I remain at your disposal.
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Related earlier updates:
Ajánlott magyar nyelvű blogbejegyzés: Alapjogi ismertető – Kiskáté a Tavares jelentésrőlZoltán Massay-Kosubek