EP criticises the Hungarian government, but fails to reach consensus to request activation of rule of law clause

A non-binding resolution urging the EU to monitor the situation in Hungary as regards the threats to democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the country has been adopted by the EU Parliamentarians.

The motion expressed serious concerns regarding the measures taken in recent months that have made access to international protection very difficult, have criminalised refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, and urged the Hungarian Government to return to normal procedures and repeal emergency measures.

The Council of the European Union and the European Council need to hold, as soon as possible, a discussion and adopt conclusions on the situation in Hungary insisted the text. The resolution also underlined that Hungary represents a test for the EU to prove its ability and political will to react to threats and breaches of its own values by the Member States.

Therefore, the Parliamentarians in favour of the text reiterated the call on the Commission to activate the first stage of the EU framework to strengthen the rule of law, and to start an in-depth monitoring process concerning the situation of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary.

The rule of law framework[1] is a tool that the Commission designed to deal with emerging systemic threats to the rule of law in an EU member state.

However, a paragraph arguing that the legal and political developments in Hungary are of concern regarding the principles of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and that the conditions for the activation of the rule of law framework and Article 7(1) of the TEU are fully met has been rejected by a margin of only 3 votes. The majority against it included the Christian-Democrats, the Conservatives, the Nationalists and the majority of the Eurosceptic group. On the other hand, the center-left parties plus the Liberals supported the statement. In the S&D group, the Romanian and Czech delegations abstained.

Situation in Hungary, par 5

Note: The final vote on the text was not by roll-call vote.

Position of the Political groups

During the debate, the European People’s Party (EPP), the political family of President Juncker and Chancellor Merkel, said that the EU parliamentarians are focusing only Hungary while other Member States are also facing similar issues[2].

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) of EP President Schulz and French President Hollande have expressed once again their worries regarding the constitutional, legal and political developments in Hungary. They claimed “that our political and moral imperative is to make clear that such non-compliance and disrespect of the fundamental values of the European Union is unacceptable and we will do what is necessary to protect and fight for them[3].”

The European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) David Cameron’s EU political group explained that criticizing the government of Hungary for the fact that it perceives a link between the immigration phenomenon and the security threat is absurd in light of what happened in Paris. They believe that the accusations of populism, nationalism and xenophobia have been thrown without giving a reason and that they serve only as a political weapon against inconvenient governments or political parties[4].

The Liberal group ALDE of Mr Verhofstadt is of the opinion that the Hungarian government “is fuelling xenophobia and homophobia, is harassing the media, harassing NGOs, harassing the opposition and restricting free research.[5]” The group is concerned about the example Hungary is setting for other Member States like for example Poland.

GUE/NGL: The radical left group close to the Greek Prime Minister Tsipras is also of the opinion that the situation of human rights in Hungary continues to deteriorate.

The Greens/EFA group highlighted as well its concerns and called on the Commission to investigate this. They are of the opinion that “the Commission’s approach has been far too narrow and failed to deal with concerns about a breach of the basic rights and values, set out in the EU Treaties”[6].

The Italian delegation of the EFDD group expressed the view that that “no strong action has been taken, especially at European level, to respond to what by many is considered a threat to the founding values ​​of the European Union[7].” There is therefore the need to give an adequate response from the European Union.

[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-237_en.htm

[2] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20151202+ITEM-017+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

[3] http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/sites/default/files/S%26D%20Plenary%20Update%20-%20December%202015_0.pdf

[4] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20151202+ITEM-017+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

[5] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20151202+ITEM-017+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

[6] http://www.greens-efa.eu/98-weekly-overview.html

[7] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20151202+ITEM-017+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN