Hungary: European Parliament’s resolution historic step to halt attacks against the Rule of Law and human rights

18/05/2017
Press release
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In a resolution adopted yesterday on the situation in Hungary, the European Parliament (EP) agreed to trigger the procedure laid out in Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). FIDH welcomes the resolution, which represents a historic step towards accountability for the Hungarian government’s repeated breaches of the EU’s founding principles as enshrined in Article 2 TEU.

In a resolution adopted yesterday on the situation in Hungary, the European Parliament (EP) agreed to trigger the procedure laid out in Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), by instructing its Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee to draw up a report with a view to adopting a reasoned proposal calling on the Council to act pursuant to Article 7 (1) TEU. FIDH welcomes the resolution, which represents a historic step towards accountability for the Hungarian government’s repeated breaches of the EU’s founding principles as enshrined in Article 2 TEU. The resolution follows five other resolutions adopted by the European Parliament between 2011 and 2015 and comes over six years after the EP first addressed the situation in Hungary in March 2011.

"Through this resolution, the European Parliament sent a clear message to Hungary, and other member states, that the line has been crossed. By agreeing to resort to Article 7 TEU, MEPs have - for the first time - signalled that the Parliament, among all institutions, is no longer willing to tolerate attacks against the EU’s own founding principles and that it is ready to do what is needed to preserve them”.
Dan Van Raemdonck, FIDH Secretary-General.

In the resolution, the European Parliament shares FIDH and other civil society organisations’ conclusion that developments in Hungary have led to a serious deterioration of democracy, the rule of law and human rights over the past few years and that ‘the current situation in Hungary represents a clear risk of a serious breach of the values referred to in Article 2 of the TEU’, thus warranting resort to the Article 7(1) TEU procedure. The resolution echoes FIDH’s concern that the European Commission’s current approach, namely infringement proceedings, has failed to grasp the problem’s dimension by focusing on technical issues and ignoring the impact that all developments combined could have on the rule of law and human rights more broadly. It urges the Hungarian Government to repeal the act amending asylum and border management legislation and the one amending the National Higher Education Act, and to withdraw the proposed Act ‘on the Transparency of Organisations Receiving Foreign Funds’ (Hungarian Parliament Bill T/14967), as recommended by FIDH over the past few months.

FIDH calls on Parliament to swiftly proceed to laying down and adopt a reasoned proposal to the European Council to activate the preventive mechanism foreseen under Article 7 (1) TEU, in order to protect the EU’s founding values as enshrined in Article 2 TEU. The reasoned proposal should cover all necessary aspects to effectively trigger the Article 7 TEU procedure. FIDH also urges the European Commission and the Council to follow-through on this resolution and support resort to the Article 7 TEU procedure.

The resolution comes at a time of worrying developments in several EU member states where the rule of law and human rights have been increasingly undermined. It represents a crucial occasion for the EU and its member states to reiterate their commitment to ensuring respect for the EU’s founding values as enshrined in Article 2 TEU.

Background

FIDH has been working on documenting the situation in Hungary over the past few years, advocating for concrete action to be taken by the European institutions against an increasing deterioration of the rule of law and human rights in this member state and to send a strong message to all member states that the EU’s founding values cannot be sold off. In October 2015, it carried out a fact-finding mission to Hungary, whose findings and conclusions are presented in its report "Hungary: Democracy under Threat, Six Years of Attacks against the Rule of Law", published in November 2016. The report documented attacks against the rule of law and human rights in Hungary since the current government came into power in 2010. It recommended that the EU take action, including by resorting to the Article 7 TEU procedure, in order to respond to a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the EU’s founding values, as enshrined in Article 2 TEU. In April 2017, FIDH carried out another visit to Hungary, notably to gather information about recent developments regarding the National Higher Education Act and the Act ’on the Transparency of Organisations Receiving Foreign Funds’ (NGO law). Most recently, FIDH had written, with Amnesty International, the Open Society European Policy Institute, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and AEDH, an open letter to all Members of the European Parliament ahead of the European Parliament’s plenary debate of 26 April 2017. The letter called on the EP to adopt a resolution which would acknowledge the severity of the situation, urge the Hungarian authorities to repeal the National Higher Education Act and withdraw the NGO law and to lay out a reasoned proposal to the European Council to activate the Article 7 TEU procedure.

Article 7 TEU

Article 7 TEU provides for a mechanism to be activated when there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU (Article 7 (1)). Once the existence of a serious and persistent breach is determined, and after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations (Article 7 (2)), the Council may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the member state in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council (Article 7 (3)). The Council may always decide to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed (Article 7 (4)).

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