No reprieve for Hungary in EU grilling over rule of law concerns



European Union (EU) ministers for European affairs on Tuesday questioned their Hungarian counterpart about rule of law concerns under a disciplinary process that Budapest had dismissed as “ridiculous” and politically motivated.

After the hearing, European Commission Vice-President, Vera Jourova, the bloc’s top rule of law official, said that EU’s executive would continue with its efforts to bring Hungary and Poland back in line with EU values.

The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban had been at loggerhead with Brussels over judicial reforms as well as measures curbing media and academic freedoms.

However, Budapest argued that the complaints stemmed from its opposition to EU migration policy.

In 2018, the European Parliament initiated Article 7 procedure, which can ultimately see a member state stripped of its EU voting rights, a move that is unlikely.

The same procedure had been launched against Poland, while Romania faced warning.

German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth, however, expressed concern about developments in Hungary.

“We see no progress in the right direction.

“Current legislative proposals in Hungary rather suggest that there could be setbacks,” Roth said.

Earlier, the Hungarian government submitted a bill to parliament that foresees a tighter, centralised grip over the country’s theatre scene.

According to EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, the aim is not to provoke Budapest but to reach a common understanding in the EU on the rule of law.

“I am hoping that we will receive some answers. Article 7 is just one of many tools at the commission’s disposal,” he said.

The Hungarian government spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs said that Article 7 procedure had gone to ridiculous lengths and was undermining the legitimacy of the EU institutions.

Kovacs was later reprimanded for live-tweeting during the debate on points raised by Italy, Germany, and Portugal among others, breaking with convention on closed-session EU ministerial meetings.

He, however, decried the hearing as “an ideologically driven political fight”.

Kovacs responded thus to a tweet by Jourova: “It’s a pity that you continue to disregard the facts and arguments on behalf of Hungary and you become party to a political witch-hunt.”

Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim

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