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08/12/2016

Hungary could lose EU voting rights, MEPs warn Orbán

Central Europe

Hungary could lose EU voting rights, MEPs warn Orbán

The Visegrad countries can lead the Western Balkans through the process of state-building and EU accession.

[EPP/Flickr]

Reinstating the death penalty in Hungary would breach the EU Treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights, and could trigger EU article 7 sanctions, which would strip Hungary of voting rights in the Union, says a European Parliament resolution passed today (10 June).

On 28 April, Orbán raised the possibility of the death penalty being reintroduced in Hungary. After some hesitation, a Commission spokesperson hinted that Hungary risked losing its voting rights in the Union if it went ahead with the plans.

>> Read: Hungary’s Orbán angers EU over death penalty, migrants

>> Read: Commission hardens tone with Orbán

This time it was the European Parliament who took over the issue, asking the European Commission in a resolution to assess the situation in Hungary and to establish an EU mechanism to monitor democracy, the rule of law and human rights annually across the EU.

This particular demand may look strange, because the EU executive has already adopted a mechanism for addressing “systemic threats” to the rule of law in any of the EU’s 28 member states, inspired by recent lurches toward authoritarianism in Hungary and Romania.

>> Read: Brussels lays out plans to counter ‘systemic threats’ to EU rule of law

The resolution says that reinstating the death penalty in Hungary would breach the EU Treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the wording of the Hungarian government’s public consultation on migration is “highly misleading, biased and unbalanced”.

Orbán launched the consultation last month to sound out the public, sending a questionnaire to every Hungarian adult.

One of the questions put to the public reads, “There are some who think that mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism. Do you agree with this view?”

Another asks: “Do you agree with the Hungarian government that support should be focused more on Hungarian families and the children they can have, rather than on immigration?”

Recently a politician from Orbán’s Fidesz party said that the government wants to draw up legislation to effectively close its southern borders to illegal migrants.

>> Read: Hungary’s ruling party wants to close southern border to migrants

Although “public consultation can be an important and valuable tool for governments to develop policies”, “the content and the language used in this particular consultation is “highly misleading, biased, and unbalanced; establishing a biased and direct link between migratory phenomena and security, MEPs say.

According to the resolution, the death penalty is “incompatible with the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights on which the Union is founded,” they stress, adding that any member state reintroducing the death penalty would be “in violation of the Treaties and of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”. They note that a serious breach by a member state would trigger the EU Treaty Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the withdrawal of its voting rights in the Council.

The resolution was passed by 362 votes to 247, with 88 abstentions.

Background

Since 2009, the European Commission has been confronted on several occasions with crisis events in some member states, which revealed specific rule of law problems.

Such examples is the handling of the Roma issue by the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, attempts to impose one-party rule in Hungary and an attempted crackdown on the judiciary in Romania.

In his Political Guidelines, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he intends to make use of the prerogatives of the Commission to uphold the EU’s shared values, the rule of law and fundamental rights. [read more]