MEPs urge resumption of rule-of-law hearings on Hungary and Poland

European Parliament criticized Council and Commission in bid to protect common values in Hungary and Poland with Article 7 Hearings

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán with Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán with Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki

The French presidency of the European Council will be resuming hearings on rule of law shortcomings by Hungary and Poland, a move that was applauded by MEPs in a resolution adopted by 426 votes to 133, with 37 abstentions.

All Maltese MEPs voted in favour, urging the Council to show “genuine commitment” and make “meaningful progress” to protect European values.

MEPs were adament that the failure of Hungary and Poland to enact the numerous judgements made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights should not be tolerated. All member states have to respect EU law, the MEPs noted.

The resolution demands that the hearings are conducted with more consistency, firmness and transparency, in a regular, structured and open manner.

They also demand that after hearings there should be a solid follow up and swift adoption of the recommendations coupled to clear deadlines for the member states in question. The text notes that: “unanimity is not required in the Council to identify a clear risk of a serious breach of Union values”.

The Council also came under fire from MEPs who said Parliament should be updated more promptly and comprehensively at every point in the process, while the Commission was not spared either, having started a formal procedure against Hungary under the Conditionality Regulation in April, but not against Poland. MEPs said it was the duty of the Council to deal with this disparity as a top priority.

They also called on both institutions to postpone the approval of Hungary and Poland’s national plans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility until both countries fall in line completely with all European Semester recommendations in the field of rule of law as well as the ECJ judgements.

The French Presidency of the Council organised a hearing with the Polish Government in February, and scheduled another with Hungarian authorities for June.

Prior to this In December 2017, the European Commission initiated the procedure for Poland. Parliament backed this move in a resolution in March 2018, and triggered the procedure for Hungary in September 2018. Despite the degenerating situation in both states in recent years, member states have skirted around voting decisively to ascertain whether there is “a clear risk of a serious breach” of the EU’s common values.

Two MEPs from The Left were however critical of the EU’s application of rule of law measures. Irish MEP Clare Daly said in Greece, humanitarian aid workers and migrants were criminalised. “We say nothing about the fact that four police officers yesterday were acquitted in Greece of the brutal death of an LGBT activist, Zak Kostopoulos, who was brutally beaten to death in 2018. Those people walked free. Endemic homophobia in Greece, Islamophobia in France, problems against the Catalans in Spain, and we say nothing. Rule of law conditionality should apply to all Member States.”

Mick Wallace, also an Irish MEP, accused the EU of hypocrisy. “Where was the outcry when the protesters in Barcelona – the Catalans – were being brutally suppressed by Spanish police and the government? Where’s the outrage over the treatment of the yellow vests in Paris? We’ve been to the court twice in Lithuania, where Algirdas Paleckis is facing several years in prison. He is accused of being a Russian spy, and the only evidence that they’re supposed to have against him, even the judges can’t see it!”

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