Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán raised the possibility that death penalty be reintroduced in his country. Commission spokespersons made their best to avoid answering questions what would be the consequences for the country’s EU membership status if such a measure is adopted.
Orbán told reporters in the south-western city of Pecs yesterday (28 April) that existing penalties for serious crimes such as murder were ‘too soft’ and that something needed to be done to remedy the problem.
“The death penalty question should be put on the agenda in Hungary,” Orbán said, as quoted by agencies. He added that it was necessary “to make clear to criminals that Hungary will stop at nothing when it comes to protecting its citizens”.
He was speaking a week after the stabbing to death of a female clerk in the nearby town of Kaposvar, which made headlines across the country.
Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party commands a majority which has been able to pass many laws which have raised eyebrows in the Commission and more broadly, in the international community.
Asked to comment, a Commission spokesperson quoted Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who had told the European Parliament in Strasbourg earlier today that “for the EU, death penalty is never the answer”.
“The provision of banning the death penalty is one of the pillars of the EU fundamental rights standards and one of the key provisions of the Charter of Fundamental starts which explicitly states that no-one should be condemned to death penalty or executed in the EU,” spokesperson Christian Wigand said.
Journalists asked what would be the consequences if Hungary, or any other EU country for that matter, would reintroduce the death penalty. In historic terms, the EU has imposed sanctions only once against a member state. In 2000, 14 countries of the then 15-member EU reacted to the entrance of Jörg Haider’s far-right Austrian Freedom Party into the Austrian government by freezing bilateral relations with the country (see background).
Wigand said that the question referred to a “speculation”, but confirmed that the abolition of the death penalty is a condition EU candidate countries are required to meet before their accession.
Asked what Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s position on the issue was, failed to respond.
In the meantime, it has become known that Parliament President Martin Schulz has had a telephone conversation with Orbán over the issue. Schulz was the leading candidate of the Socialists and Democrats for the European elections, while Orbán is from Juncker’s political family, the European Peoples Party (EPP).