MEPs hear NGOs on Hungarian state of rule of law and attack on minority rights

MEPs on rule of law missino to Hungary, long accused of deterioration in rule of law and attack on minority rights

The delegation of MEPs on their rule of law mission to Hungary. Photo: EP
The delegation of MEPs on their rule of law mission to Hungary. Photo: EP

A delegation of MEPs has concluded a visit to Hungary to assess the respect of the much-criticised Orban administration for press and academic freedom, judicial independence, minority rights and rule of law.

The delegation from the Civil Liberties Committee met with the government, the opposition parties, journalists and NGOs.

“The last three days in Budapest have been packed but fruitful. We heard from over a hundred people and their diverse accounts will help us formulate a broadly informed view of what is happening in various aspects - justice, education, media - of rule of law in Hungary,” said head of delegation Gwendoline Delbos-Corfiel (Greens) at the end of the trip.

The delegation was also made up of Bettina Vollath (S&D), Jorge Buxadé Villalba (ECR), Nicolas Bay (ID), Anna Donáth (renew), Isabel Wiseler-Lima (EPP), and Malin Björk (The Left).

MEPs had already called on the European Commission to launch an accelerated infringement procedure against Hungary over a Hungarian law being in clear breach of fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter of fundamental rights, the Treaties and EU internal market legislation.

Viktor Orban’s administration is accused of spreading state-sponsored LGBTIQ-phobia and disinformation campaigns as tools for political censorship.

MEPs accused Hungary of human rights violations that were part of a broader political agenda to break down democracy and the rule of law, including media freedom, and demanded they be considered a systemic violation of EU values.

Recent manifestations of this problem include amending the country’s Constitution to declare that “the mother is a female and the father is a male”, and the de facto ban of legal gender recognition for transgender and intersex persons.

In September 2018, Parliament demanded that the Council act to prevent the Hungarian authorities from breaching the EU’s founding values. MEPs were chiefly concerned about judicial independence, freedom of expression, corruption, rights of minorities, and the situation of migrants and refugees.

But the EU’s discussions with Hungary did not lead to a realighment with the EU’s founding values, with MEPs criticising the European Council for not making effective use of Article 7 against Hungary and undermining the integrity of common European values.

In Budapest, the delegation of MEPs representing all of the European Parliament’s political groups listened carefully for three packed days to viewpoints on issues ranging from social rights and judicial independence to media freedom and minority rights.

“Through our discussions, we did not only gather information but also tried to gauge prevailing trends and the circumstances under which various government and civil society actors operate. We talked with ministers, judges, members of parliament, opposition politicians, civil society organisations, academics, researchers and artists. With the input gathered, we are now going to continue our work and present a fine-tuned, updated report on the Hungarian rule of law situation to Parliament in December,” Delbos-Corfiel said.

In its 2021 Rule of Law report, the European Commission highlighted the worsening situation in the country. It noted, among other issues, the risk to media pluralism, and the pressure faced by civil society organisations critical of the government. For the Commission, the transparency and quality of the Hungarian legislative process also remains a source of concern.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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