Top EU court dismisses Hungary’s complaint over democracy probe

A cameraman films the logo of the European Court of Justice (SCJ) in Luxembourg, 5 October 2015. [Julien Warnand/EPA/EFE]

The top European Union court dismissed on Thursday (2 June) Hungary’s challenge against the opening in 2018 of a disciplinary procedure against Budapest for undermining democracy in the formerly communist country.

Budapest had challenged on procedural grounds a European Parliament vote three years ago stating that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s policies were posing “a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded.”

MEPs trigger Article 7 against Hungary after evasive Juncker speech

MEPs voted en masse to trigger Article 7 proceedings against Hungary on Wednesday (12 September), although Jean-Claude Juncker’s early morning Strasbourg speech failed to send much of a clear signal against Budapest’s alleged rule of law violations.

EU lawmakers’ decision could lead to a maximum, if unlikely, sanction of suspending Budapest’s voting rights in the 27-nation bloc. Hungary sought to annul it.

But the Court of Justice of the European Union dismissed Hungary’s case that the parliament had counted abstaining votes incorrectly, the latest in years of tussles between Orbán and the bloc on democratic values.

In power since 2010, Orbán has adopted increasingly restrictive laws on migrants and gays, as well as putting media, academics and NGOs under tighter state control.

Hungary has also been under scrutiny for its public procurement laws the bloc’s executive says do not facilitate competition, which rights groups say opens the way to misappropriation of public funds.

Orbán denies breaking any laws and casts himself as a defender of traditional and Catholic family values.

He most recently threatened to block a massive EU stimulus meant to help economies climb out of record recession triggered by the COVID pandemic unless provisions to halt the flow of money over rule of law violations were watered down.

National EU ministers are expected to debate the latest on the rule of law in Hungary – and its other nationalist, eurosceptic ally Poland – in June.

While some EU countries want to pile pressure on Orbán, others worry that would risk alienating Budapest and straining the bloc’s damaged cohesion even further.

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