On the initiative of the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament is today holding a debate on Hungary. Although the Parliament launched in September last year the Article 7 procedure against the Hungarian government for breaching the rule of law, we have not seen much follow up action on the side of the member states. In the meantime, the situation of the rule of law and democracy in Hungary has further deteriorated in the last months. To mention only few examples:
* The Central European University in Budapest was forced by Orbán’s governement to move its main activities to Vienna at the end of last year.
* Without consultation procedure, the Hungarian Parliament adopted in December 2018 amendments to the labour law, criticised as a ‘slave law’, as it allows employers to ask for up to 400 hours of overtime work per year.
* A bill adopted in December 2018 on the new administrative courts overseen by the justice minister is designed to fill the justice system with political cronies instead of experienced and independent judges. The courts are supposed to deal with politically sensitive lawsuits on government business that were until now covered in the general legal system.
* The owners of a majority of Hungary’s pro-government media outlets announced in November 2018 that they are donating their companies to a foundation, the ‘Central European Press and Media Foundation’. The result is the creation of a huge pro-governmental and right wing media conglomerate that threatens pluralism.
Ahead of today’s debate, S&D vice-president and shadow rapporteur on Hungary, Josef Weidenholzer said:
“The recent developments in Hungary prove that Orbán’s intention was never to take a step back. Under the EPP umbrella, he happily continues to reinforce his autocratic rule by all possible means. At the same time he continues to pour scorn on the European Union and seek its unravelling.
“We call on the Council to urgently follow-up on the Parliament’s decision to launch Article 7 procedures against the Hungarian government. We also reiterate our request that the European parliamentarians be invited to the Council’s meetings dealing with the Article 7 procedure. As the author of the proposal, the Parliament should be allowed to outline its position.
“Having serious doubts on the new overtime rules, we also call on the Commission to evaluate whether they are in line with EU legislation and take all the necessary measure to defend Hungarian workers.
“European citizens, including Hungarians who will go to the ballot boxes in May cannot doubt that the EU institutions are here to defend them in case their democratic freedoms or social rights are undermined by their national government.”