Commission hardens tone with Orbán

Viktor Orbán [European Commission]

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday (30 April) urged Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to make clear he has no intention of reintroducing the death penalty in his country, otherwise “there will be a fight”. A Commission spokesperson hinted that Hungary risked losing its voting rights in the Union if it went ahead with the plans.

On 28 April, Orbán raised the possibility of the death penalty being reintroduced in Hungary. Yesterday, the Commission did its best to avoid answering questions as to what would be the consequences if such a measure was adopted.

>> Read: Commission shies away from warning Orbán over death penalty

But today, the tone appears to completely different. Journalists asked Juncker, who appeared in front of the press with visiting Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, to say whether he was going to discuss the issue with Orbán.

“We don’t need discussions on obvious things. I’m a strong opponent of the death penalty for so many reasons. The charter of fundamental rights of the EU is forbidding it, and Mr Orbán should immediately make clear this is not his intention. Would it be his intention, it would be a fight,” Juncker said.

Asked to comment if the EU would make use of Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty for the first time, according to which serious human rights breaches by a member state can result in a suspension or loss of voting rights in the Council, Juncker spokesperson Natasha Bertaud stated that in 2014, the Commission adopted a framework for addressing systemic threats addressing the rule of law in the 28 member states.

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

“Of course, if no solution is found within this established framework, article 7 will always remain as a last resort to resolve any kind of crises and ensure compliance with EU values,” Bertaud said.

The Orbán comment has particularly infuriated France, which is fighting to save the life of one of its nationals who is in the death row in Indonesia on drug smuggling charges. At the request of French President François Hollande, Council President Donald Tusk stated at the last EU summit on 23 April that the EU “is completely opposed to the death penalty.”

>> Read: EU criticises French citizen’s death sentence in Indonesia

“It is very sad that while the EU tries to deliver a strong message against the death penalty, a Prime Minister says he is in favour of re-introducing it in his country,” a diplomat said.

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