EU

Conflicts between the EU and Hungary between 2010-2020

EU vs Hungary: Conflicts 2010-2020

By ECLJ1616165370488

After the regime change in 1989-90,[1] Hungary sought its place in the international political environment in the European integration. As one of the most important organizations of the area, the European Union was a clear choice for Hungary to seek peace and development after the difficult years of socialism. Therefore, Hungary joined the EU on 1 May 2004. After the reasonably uneventful first few years, a significant shift occurred in the relationship of the EU and Hungary in 2010, when the national-conservative Fidesz[2] party won the two-third of the parliamentary seats of the National Assembly.[3]

In the first 20 years after the regime change, leftist parties could govern Hungary for longer time (Until 2010, parties from the right governed the country for eight years, left parties did so for twelve years). After eight years of the MSZP-SZDSZ[4] coalition government, that faced with scandalous events in 2006[5] and the poor treatment of the economic crisis,[6] Fidesz could use the opportunity after the exhausting economic crisis and the sometimes-scandalous years of the socialist-liberal governance.

In 2010, Fidesz could start the governance work with a constitutional majority. The communication of the party and its media refer to the result of the elections as the ‘Revolution at the polling booths’. Regardless whether it is considered a revolution or not, this period brought many changes in the political and diplomatic relations of the EU and Hungary, including numerous conflicts. The aim of this paper is to summarize and examine these conflicts, with particular attention whether the conflict could be resolved or not.

The governance cycle between 2010-2014 was not the first one of Fidesz, since the government between 1998-2002 had been formed by them. Winning the elections in 2010 with the two-third of the parliament meant a great opportunity to the Fidesz party to make important decisions and shape the foreign policy of Hungary, including EU relations. The period from 2010 is usually assessed separately from the period of Hungarian politics between 1989 and 2010, since the adaptation of the new Constitution and other significant systematic changes. Therefore, I will refer to the “first governance cycle” as the first cycle of the new period of Hungarian politics.

The latest has always been an extremely intense political arena for the Hungarian Government since 2010. On the other hand, the institutions of the EU and the Council of Europe have paid special attention to the decisions of the Orbán-led Hungarian Government. It is not surprising that the relationship has been burdened by many technical, political, legal and even moral disputes. In this report, I will summarize the most conflicts between the two parties.

 

First Governance Cycle (2010-2014)

Bank and sectoral taxes

The first controversial steps of the Government were still part of the crisis management following the 2008-2009 global economic crisis. The Hungarian Parliament adopted a new tax on banks and later sectoral taxes in the energy and telecommunication sectors as a part of the Government’s recovery plan.[7] The European Commission (EC) analysed the decision based on the complaints of the affected multinational companies and made observations[8] on the effectivity of such measures, but the Commission did not start any proceedings, since the taxation is the competence of the Member States. In March 2020, A preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in a case regarding the sectorial tax on confirmed that these taxes are compatible with the law of the European Union.[9]

The New Constitution

The first major conflict between the EU and Hungary raised after the adoption of the new Constitution of Hungary. Although it was not disputed that it had been necessary after the regime change, the provisions of the basic law were in the focus of disputes domestically and in the EU as well. The procedure of the adoption was very rapid since the constituting majority of the Fidesz allowed to finish it without any pressure to seek compromises. The Constitution also mentions Christian values as an important factor of the Hungarian culture.

The strongest criticism was directed on the measures which affected the system of checks and balances. Firstly, the Venice Commission criticised that the legislation period had not been transparent enough and the new limitations on the competence of the Constitutional Court, which could not examine all rules based on the new Constitution. It was also highlighted that using ‘cardinal’ laws would be able to decrease the relevance of the elections since Fidesz party’s majority was able to fix its power for a long time that could not be changed by a simple majority later. Regarding the mention of Christian values, the Venice Commission made the following comment: “One can note, as far as the religious aspect is concerned, that while stressing the major role of Christianity in the history of Hungary, the Preamble also states that “we value the various religious traditions of our country.” ” Therefore, the Commission did not find such reference problematic.[10] Based on the opinions of the Venice Commission,[11] the European Parliament (EP) expressed its concerns[12] regarding the new Constitution and also required the European Commission to examine the Constitution. The proposal was mostly supported by socialist, green and liberal MEPs, but some MEPs of the European People’s Party (EPP) has also supported it. The Commission did not launch any proceedings. The vice president of the EC, Maros Sefcovic pointed out that Hungary’s constitution can only be judged after a period of time.[13] Although there were not any measures adopted against the new Constitution, this conflict was the first serious milestone of the conflicts between the institutions of the EU and Hungary.

The Amendments of the Constitution

After the EC did not launch any proceedings on the new Constitution, its 4th amendment became more problematic. This amendment was more significant than the previous ones since it covered not only technical corrections but important political changes as well. It consisted of a proposal about the payment of fines imposed by the CJEU. Based on this proposal, if the state budget is not enough to pay such fines, the National Assembly could impose a special tax on citizens to cover the costs. Besides, there have been many limitations on the competence of the Constitutional Court of Hungary: it is not entitled to examine substantial issues of the constitution, only procedural. The amendment also contained a rule of moving cases from a court to another and limitation of political advertisements. According to the amendment, political parties could only campaign in public media. The latest would have been highly problematic in Hungary, since the law would have allowed the government to use private media for governmental messages. This would have resulted in an unbalanced communication, since the government has used governmental communication for campaign purposes. Last but not least, the amendment introduced the definition of the basics of family relationships.[14]

The Venice Commission published its observations about the proposal, and pinpointed that the general background of the amendment was to incorporate provisions which were annulled by the Constitutional Court of Hungary.[15] Although the provisions of family was criticised in the media, the Venice Commission found that the provision is in line with the case law of the ECHR, since it does not define family, rather the basics of family ties.[16]

The European Commission criticised three points in particular: a special tax to cover infringement penalties of EU law paid by citizens, allowing to move judiciary cases from one court to another and limitation of political advertisement in private media enterprises.[17] There were no legal proceedings in front of the CJEU since the Commission could agree with the Government on modifications to the amendment. Later, the Hungarian Parliament adopted the fifth amendment of the Constitution, which consisted of corrections based on the criticism of the EC.

The Forced Retirement of Judges

A provision of the Constitution lowered „the mandatory retirement age for judges, prosecutors and public notaries from 70 to 62 years within a very short transition period”.[18] According to critical voices, the goal of the government was to remove the judges who served before the 1989 regime change since they were considered too socialist or liberal by the government. The EC launched an infringement procedure, in which the CJEU decided that the provision embodies discrimination at the workplace on grounds of age.[19] At the time of the decision of the CJEU, the Hungarian Constitutional Court had already decided in this case and ruled against the provision.[20] Later, the regulation was changed in accordance with the observations.

The situation of the Rule of Law in Hungary; The Tavares Report 

In 2013 the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament drafted a proposal about the situation of democracy in Hungary and the compliance of the new Constitution with the EU regulations.[21] The EP adopted the report with 370 votes in favour, 249 against and 82 abstentions. The report gave a thorough analysis of the implementation of the democratic values in Hungary. Since it based on the Resolution adopted earlier, it criticised the same points about the democracy in Hungary and expressed concerns regarding the situation of Human Rights in Hungary. The resolution did not have any serious legal consequences, since the European Commission started a general proceeding, it only started infringement proceeding in particular cases.

New Act on Media 

The new Act on Media[22] was also heavily criticised by the EU. The EP adopted a resolution and required the EC to examine the new Act.[23] As a result of the Act, the party with a majority in the National Assembly would have an unbalanced influence in the Hungarian media, since they would be able to elect the board that supervises media issues. This board has a wide range of rights to control the actors of the media. The EC acted upon the request and reached an agreement with the Hungarian government.[24] The Assembly amended the law, but the EP still found the situation unsatisfactory. After the second round of the issue in the EP, the EC did not take any further measures against Hungary, since they found the modified version satisfactory.

Reduction of Energy costs

One of the biggest (and loudest) political programmes of the cycle was the reduction of energy costs paid by the citizens.[25] The drastic reduction of energy prices was closely monitored by the EU, since establishing administrative prices is against the competition law provisions of the European Union. The dispute was followed by a very strong communication in Hungary. The politicians of the Fidesz called the dispute with the EU a ‘fight for freedom’. In this case, the EC launched the infringement proceeding against Hungary, which was continued at the CJEU. In July 2020, the Court ruled that the efforts to reduce energy prices is not against the law of the EU. On the other hand, the Court ruled that Hungary shall establish an appellate body to ensure the rights of energy provider companies as well.[26]

Issues at the Council of Europe and the ECHR

Parallel to the numerous cases at the EU, Hungary has had legal and political disputes at the Council of Europe and the ECHR too. Besides, the ECHR decided particular cases. The ECHR ruled that the special tax on the high redundancy benefits paid for government officers infringe the right to property. The ECHR admitted that the reason to do so is acceptable (to satisfy the social sense of justice) but this very high tax is against human rights and the tax would have also been retrospective.[27]

The ECHR also found the act on religions contrary to human rights, since it had deprived many smaller religious groups of the legal recognition, therefore there were not entitled to state funds anymore.[28] The Act C of 2011 on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on the Legal Status of Churches, Religious Denominations and Religious Communities aimed to deprive ’church status’ of small churches, to avoid misuse of state funds. But the new act would have taken the status of state-recognised religion, so the ECHR found the provision discriminative.

Furthermore, similarly to the EU, the Council of Europe also observed the situation of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. As it has already been mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) examined the situation of human rights in Hungary regularly. The Council set up a committee to report about the situation. As a result of the report, the Council put Hungary under a ‘monitoring procedure’ which does not have any real consequences on Hungary.

Corruption

In 2014, the EC released its first report on corruption. According to the document, the corruption in Hungary is worse than average. The EC also shared plans to resolve the issue, but neither the report nor the recommendations had practical consequences.[29]

 

Second Governance Cycle (2014-2018)

The second cycle of the government and Fidesz majority was not only significant because of the new set of conflicts, but Orbán also laid down the ideological background of his governance, the so-called ‘illiberal democracy’.[30] This generated a wide discussion about the democratic situation in Hungary, not only in Europe but in the US as well. Besides, in 2014 at the election of the new EP brought up the dispute on the future of the EU. While many thinks that the Member States should cooperate more intensely, others, such as the Hungarian Government is against this idea and they stress the importance of national sovereignty. Besides the usual issues on democracy and rule of law, this difference also became a basis of further conflicts between the new EC led by Juncker and the re-elected Fidesz party that led the Hungarian Government and National Assembly. Last but not least, the immigration situation turned out to be a very significant issue, where the Central-Eastern European states had a very different perspective than the Western European states.

Act on Civil Organizations 

Among the first measures in the new cycle, the government decided to adopt regulations on the organisations of civil society. The new proposal would have brought serious regulations on the transparency of funding such organizations. Firstly, the Venice Committee criticised the proposal, since it consisted of too serious measures and disproportionate sanctions.[31] The Committee admitted that the regulations had a legitimate objective since transparency and efforts against terrorism and money laundering are important, but the tools have to be proportionate to achieve such goals.[32] Based on the Committee’s recommendation, the Government partly amended the act.

The Council of Europe also condemned the actions of the government against civil society.[33] It criticised not only the act but the surrounding and heavy campaign against the organisations of civil society. It was criticised both domestically and in the EU, that the measures hit not only organizations that receive big funds from abroad but the small organizations as well and it put a heavy burden on them. The EU later launched infringement proceedings which were continued at the CJEU.[34] In June 2020 the Court decided that the act infringes the EU law since it discriminates some organizations without a valid reason to do so.

Internet Tax

The Government also tried to impose taxes on internet usage. The proposal was heavily criticised on a domestic level, protests started following the announcement of the plan. Later, the EC also criticised the idea,[35] since it would be against the freedom of services, it would infringe competition law regulations and it would affect the free flow of information. The government withdrew the plan on the tax.

The situation of the Rule of Law and democracy in Hungary

Not surprisingly, the situation of the rule of law and democracy were an important topic of the cycle between 2014 and 2018 as well. In the European Parliament, Hungary has been ‘on the table’ during all the time, while the Council of Europe also continued to monitor the situation of the mentioned rights in the country. Such proceedings had mostly only consequences in communication, but these general concerns did not cause any legal or economic consequences to Hungary.

Issues on Energy Policy

In this cycle, decisions on energy policies were slightly less visible, but also very important to Hungary. Besides decisions on building new gas pipelines, where Hungary could avoid open conflict with the EU, the government also planned to build a new nuclear power plant. The EC strictly observed the deal,[36] since Hungary took it granted that it could be built by Russians and therefore, it would infringe competition regulations of the EU. After three years of consultations, in 2017 the EC agreed to allow the construction, with particular conditions. Therefore, the parties could avoid starting infringement proceedings.

Death Penalty

In 2015, Mr Orbán announced that consideration of the death penalty should be part of the political agenda. The EC condemned the idea immediately[37] and informed the government that such decisions could lead to the proceeding under Article 7 of the TEU. Domestically, the announcement of the government was criticised since it did not address actual issues, but it was used as a topic to thematize the political discussion of Hungary. The Hungarian Government did not take any further steps regarding death penalty.

Tax on Advertising

The Government also released plans to tax advertising. In the first proposal, the advertising would have hit the biggest private media outlet disproportionally. After heavy criticism on the discriminatory proposal, the government changed the regulation and it established a more equal plan to tax advertising. The EC still decided to launch an infringement procedure. The Advocate General at the CJEU released her opinion on the question in October 2020, in which she recommends deciding in favour of Hungary.[38] Therefore, it is very likely that the amended act is in compliance with EU law.

Immigration

According to a study, Hungary already faced with a growing number of immigrants (economic migrants and refugees) in 2013 compared to previous years. Mr Orbán decided to thematize the discussion both in the EU and in Hungary with the topic of migration, so at the peak of the immigration flow in 2015, he already had a determined point of view on the question. This point was considered very hostile. The communication campaign in Hungary was indeed very hostile towards immigrants and refugees, it was considered racist and xenophobic in the EU. The basis of the dispute is the different approach on immigration: while many EU countries find immigration as a solution for solving demographic issues of Western Europe, Hungary prefers to provide big financial support for families and try to solve demographic issues on a domestic level.[39]

On the other hand, the basic principle of protecting the borders at a time of bigger immigration pressure, a slow shift can be recognized in the opinion of both of the EU institutions and also many Western European states. In the beginning, Mr Orbán was heavily criticised of building a fence at the southern border of Hungary. Many Member states criticised the decision, since ‘building walls’ is not the European ways, but the EU did not find any legal restriction on this measure.[40] Later, after the terror attacks in 2015, other countries also more intensely urged steps to establish and maintain stronger border control. The EU also acknowledged later that the ‘migration pressure’ is unbearable and agreed with Turkey to halt economic migrants and refugees in return of three billion euros and started to send back immigrants to their countries of origin.

But there still has been a fundamental conceptual difference between the European Union, the Western European Countries and Hungary. The Hungarian Government consistently refused to take any migrants or refugees and opposed a Union-wide framework, the so-called quota system. This has resulted in different proceedings between the EU and Hungary.

Firstly, the CJEU ruled that Hungary’s law on the treatment of immigrants was unlawful, such as the lack of a forum to appeal against immigration decisions. The Hungarian Minister of Justice commented that the CJEU did not change any main elements of the measures on immigration, these were mostly criticism on procedural issues. Secondly, the EC also launched proceedings against Hungary, because Hungary did not take any immigrants based on the quota-system. Hungary lost in this case at the CJEU, but the country still did not intend to perform its obligations. Therefore, the EC launched a new proceeding about imposing a penalty on Hungary. This case is still ongoing.[41]

The conflict about migration draws attention to a deeper issue in the European Union. While many Central-Eastern European countries find the decision of the Council of the European Union as an attack on their sovereignty. Meanwhile, other countries believe that undertake such obligations should be the element of the solidarity between the Member States.

Conflict with the European People’s Party

In 2015, after addressing the death penalty as an ‘option’, the Fidesz was criticised by its own allies in the EP, the EPP. Many delegates found it unacceptable that the Fidesz thematized the public debate in Hungary with a topic that goes against the European Values. Later, the EPP was divided about how to react to Hungary’s strong opinion on migration, but the political rationale kept the Fidesz inside the party: the EPP needed the votes and Fidesz needed the bigger influence that was provided by the biggest political group of the EPP. The conflict became more intense from 2018.

Communication War with the EU 

In this cycle, the Government started a poster campaign and a national consultation called ‘Stop Brussels!’ in Hungary about the measures of the EU to limit Hungary’s freedom and sovereignty and to force its migration policy on Hungary. In Hungary, the Government often uses this tool to communicate with the Citizens. The tool is often criticised by the opposition parties and the civil sphere since they find the questions manipulative and biased. The EC reacted with a communication campaign in Hungary to deny the accusations of the Hungarian Governments. In this document, they refused the particular points of the governments’ consultation, since they found that these points were not based on facts, therefore, the questions of the consultation is misleading and manipulative.[42]

Corruption 

The EU’s anti-fraud body, the OLAF found in 2015 that Hungary’s results are suspiciously good, so the body reported that the country should be more thorough when examining the usage of the EU funds. The EC did not launch proceedings on this issue.[43]

Central European University

As a part of the measures against ’foreign influence’ in Hungary, in particular, against Soros György (George Soros), the Government set up a new system of accreditation rules of foreign educational programmes. The background of the issue is that the Central European University, founded by Soros gave a certificate that was recognised as a US higher education certificate. The new system made it necessary exclusively to the CEU to comply with a new set of rules. The University was able to do so, but the Government should have still signed an agreement to allow the CEU to ensure US certificates as well. This has not happened, so the CEU could not continue its programmes in Hungary with the earlier system. Therefore, the University left the country. The Government communicated that the University left based on its free decision, but many said that with the new regulation, the operation of the University had been undermined. After mass protests and international outcry, the EC launched infringement proceedings which were ruled against the Hungarian Government at the Court in October 2020.[44] Based on the decision, the CEU can continue its US certificate programmes in Hungary. The Government found the decision unacceptable.[45]

Act on Acquiring Land by Foreign Citizens

Hungary also tried to prevent Hungarian land to be used by foreign citizens, including citizens of the Member States of the EU. In 2013, Hungary accepted a new provision for the Land Code. In the new provision, the possibility was accessible, but it was seriously limited, since the foreign citizens should have lived in Hungary for a longer period, had to have a Hungarian certificate about the agricultural education or had to have previous agricultural activity in Hungary.

The EC launched an infringement proceeding against the country and the CJEU ruled in favour of the EC since the act was against the competition law of the EU and the free movement of capital among the Member States. The CJEU found that limitations could be acceptable if there are important public reason to do so, but Hungary’s limitations were not proportional and did not protect any important public reason.[46]

The Ministry for Agriculture responded, that the CJEU was protecting the interest of foreign speculators, but the National Assembly changed the Act in accordance with the decision and allowed the citizens of the Member States to acquire land in Hungary.

Segregation of the Roma Community

Hungary was also criticised for the segregation of Roma youth in education.[47] The EC launched an infringement proceeding against Hungary since schools often launched segregated classes for Roma children and they often have to go to school for children with mental disabilities.

 

Third Governance Cycle (2018-2022, ongoing)

The third cycle started tensely after the heated and contradictory years of the immigration dispute. The most important problem of the current cycle is the procedure under Article 7 of the TEU. In the recent periods, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the EU institutions to focus on the urgent issues of the health crisis, but in the Summer and Autumn of 2020, the CJEU has decided many cases from the recent years, mostly against Hungary.

Conflict with the EPP

The conflict with the EPP escalated in 2018. While Orbán tends to be more conservative, many leaders of the EPP seem to be more progressive on particular issues, which led to a conflict between the two. After the EP elections, the votes are not that important anymore to the EPP, but it might still be a big loss to lose Fidesz party. The ex-president of the EC, Mr Juncker said that the Fidesz should leave the EPP. The EPP suspended the membership of the Fidesz, but they postponed deciding its future in the political group after the coronavirus.[48]

’Stop Soros!’

The newly elected Assembly adopted the act called ’Stop Soros!’ in June 2018. The provisions would punish organizations that support asylum seekers to get a refugee status or a permanent residence. The EC launched an infringement proceeding, which was submitted to the CJEU in November 2020. The Advocate General announced that the provisions of the ‘Stop Soros!’ package infringe the EU law; therefore, it is likely that the CJEU will decide the same in the following months.

Sargentini Report, the Procedure under Article 7 and the ‘Rule of Law’ Clause in the budgetary proceeding

One of the most significant conflicts between the EU and Hungary has started like the ‘usual’ conflict between the EU and Hungary in the past ten years: a report on the situation of Rule of Law in Hungary. Judith Sargentini, a Dutch MEP of the Greens, made the report and submitted it to the EP.[49] In September 2020, the EP launched the proceedings against Hungary, with a 70% support of the MEPs,[50] so the proceeding is in front of the Council of the European Union. At this stage, the members of the Council can make recommendations to the Hungarian government and there is no time limit to end the proceedings at this stage. After the Sargentini Report, the Hungarian Government also attacked the adoption of the report at the Court of Justice of the European Union, since there has been an ambiguous procedural question regarding the vote in the European Parliament. The conflict will remain at this stage until further notice.

Meanwhile, the Committees of the European Parliament proposed that the payments of the EU can only be received if the Member State fits a set of conditions of rule of law. The proposal was widely supported by the EP and it particular Member States (Poland and Hungary) opposed the idea. After one year of the proposal (it was accepted in November 2019) it seems that it has been shaped to an acceptable form for the two countries. The debate is still ongoing, the final form of the clause will be accepted in the following months.[51]

Communication War with the EU

In the current cycle, there has also been a communication clash between the EU and Hungary. The Government launched a poster campaign before the EP election against ‘Brussels’ and immigration.[52] The EU responded to the campaign and tried to make its role more transparent to the Hungarian Citizens.

Criticism of the Communication Attacks on the Justice System

In the Government’s communication, the judges and the system of justice of Hungary were heavily attacked. The communication campaign and planned changes made judges feel uneasy and the trust in the justice system also decreased. The EC expressed its concerns regarding the situation, but no further steps have been taken.[53] The Government withdrew its plan of a systematic change to establish separate administrative courts. 

Provisions Against Homeless People

At the end of 2018, the National Assembly adopted an amendment to the Constitution that living on the streets is prohibited. The decision was heavily criticised by legal aid organizations and professionals and even the police confirmed that the rule cannot be enforced. Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner responsible for social issues expressed her concerns but she said that it is not her competence to deal with the question. It is likely that later proceedings will be launched regarding the rule.[54]

Immigration Infringement Proceedings

In July 2019, the EC launched a new proceeding against Hungary, which also landed at the CJEU. Hungary decided to set up the so-called transit-zones, to keep immigrants close to the border, under the control of border control authorities until their immigration request is decided, for more than 28 days. Besides, the applicants criticised the method of the Hungarian authorities. After the authorities refused the application, they ordered the applicants back to Serbia, as the last country before they arrived to the European Union. Later, Serbia refused to take them back, so the Hungarian authorities ordered them back to their country of origin.

The Advocate General and found that the procedure of Hungary of keeping migrants and refugees in detention for more than 28 days and the reason for ordering the immigrants back is contrary are against the EU law. In May 2020, the Court accepted the Advocate General’s opinion and decided the case against Hungary. The applicants did not have a forum to appeal, and their request (later their appeal) should have been decided by a court, not by the immigration authorities, since these are not independent from the enforcement branch of power.[55]

Homophobia

Based on research[56] by the Eurostat in 2019, the homophobia has raised since 2015 in Hungary. Critics in the EU say that the Government’s decisions and communication triggered the attitude towards LGBT+ communities. According to Mr Orbán, members of the LGBT+ community can live freely in Hungary. In the Spring of 2020, the Hungarian Parliament adopted an act that prohibited to have a different ‘identity number’ then the number which was recorded at the birth of the person. Many advocates of the LGBT+ communities rights have condemned the decision both in Hungary and in the EU. There is no proceeding ongoing so far, but presumably, the Commission will launch an infringement proceeding against the act.

Issues at the Council of Europe and the ECHR

The Council of Europe criticised particular matters, such as the lifelong imprisonment as a sentence of criminal law, the situation of the organizations of civil society, the freedom of the press and the independence of judges. The Council advised the Hungarian Government to change these practices and/or amend the relevant acts. The Government disregarded the recommendations and reports and there are no further sanctions to be used by the Council.

Rule by Decree in the COVID-19 pandemic

The EP found the decision of the Hungarian National Assembly to lengthen the ’special legal order’ which was started regarding the pandemic situation unacceptable and required the EC to start the proceeding under Article 7 of the TEU. The EC refused to do so since there is already a proceeding against Hungary.[57]

Corruption

In September 2020, the OLAF found that most of the frauds regarding the EU funds happen in Hungary. The EU funds for Hungary is affected by corruption in 3,93%. The second most fraud in the proportion of the received funds happened in Slovakia, where the number is 0,53%,[58] so the significant percentage is considered as a sign of a serious corruption. The Government responded to the report and said that these numbers are the legacy of the socialist governments before 2010.

Change of Structure at the Art University in Budapest

The Government recently changed the leadership structure of a few Universities in Budapest. While the changes were not heavily opposed by the wider publicity in the case of the Corvinus University of Budapest (university of business and economy) in the case of the prestigious university of arts, the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest, the changes are heavily opposed by the students, the teachers and many public figures both in Hungary and on the international level.[59]

________

[1] In the present document, I refer to this peaceful democratic transition as the “regime change”

[2] Fiatalok Demokrata Szövetsége – Alliance of Young Democrats

[3] Fidesz won the elections with the Christian democrat KDNP (Kereszténydemokrata Néppárt – People’s Party of Christian Democrats). The two parties form a party alliance; therefore their cooperation is stronger than a usual coalition.

[4] Magyar Szocialista Párt – Hungarian Socialist Party; Szabad Demokraták Szövetsége – Alliance of Free Democrats

[5] BBC News: ’We lied to win, says Hungary PM’ 18 September 2006, BBC News. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5354972.stm also: Daniel McLaughlin: ’150 injured as Hungarians riot over PM's lies’ 19 September 2006, The Guardian. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/sep/19/1

[6] Gideon Rachman: ’Hungarian lessons for a world crisis’ 11 May 2009, Financial Times. Available:

 https://www.ft.com/content/7e22b31a-3e55-11de-9a6c-00144feabdc0

[7] Chris Bryant: ’Hungarian PM sets out economic plan’ 8 June 2010, Financial Times. Available: https://www.ft.com/content/51562db6-72f8-11df-9161-00144feabdc0

[8] EUBusiness Breaking News: ‘Hungary pushes through controversial bank tax’ EUBusiness. Available: https://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/hungary-imf-economy.5nx

[9] CJEU: Case C‑75/18 - JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Grand Chamber) 3 March 2020. Available: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=223985&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=9468838

[10] Venice Commission: Opinion on the new Constitution of Hungary adopted by the Venice Commission at its 87th Plenary Session DL-AD(2011)016-e (Venice, 17-18 June 2011) point 32. Available: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2011)016-e

[11] Venice Commission Opinion on three legal questions arising in the process of drafting the New Constitution of Hungary - Adopted by the Venice Commission at its 86th Plenary Session CDL-AD(2011)001-e ( Venice, 25-26 March 2011) Available: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2011)001-e and Venice Commission (above n 10)

[12] European Parliament: Resolution of 5 July 2011 on the Revised Hungarian Constitution. 5 July 2011, Strasbourg. Available: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0315+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

[13] “The assessment at this stage is that the Hungarian Constitution does not create issues of compatibility with Union law. Its legal effects will be fully evaluated when the implementing legislative, administrative and judicial procedures are in place.” See the comment of Maroš Šefčovič, in: European Parliament Debate: ’Review of the Hungarian Presidency’ 5 July 2011, Strasbourg. Available: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20110705+ITEM-005+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

[14] See Article L section (1) of the Hungarian Constitution: “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage or the relationship between parents and children.” in the Fundamental Law of Hungary. Available: https://fra.europa.eu/en/law-reference/fundamental-law-hungary-7

[15] Venice Commission: FOURTH AMENDMENT TO THE FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF HUNGARY AND TECHNICAL NOTE., 21 March 2013, Strasbourg. Opinion no. 720 / 2013 CDL-REF(2013)014 Available: https://www.sauvonsleurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Hungary-fourth-amendmentt.pdf

[16] Venice Commission (above n 10)

[17] European Commission: ’The European Commission reiterates its serious concerns over the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of Hungary’ Press release, 12 April 2013. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_13_327

[18] European Commission: ‘European Commission closes infringement procedure on forced retirement of Hungarian judges’ Press release, 20 November 2013. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_13_1112

[19] CJEU: Case C‑286/12 - JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (First Chamber) 6 November 2012. Available: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=129324&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=11662160

[20] Constitutional Court of Hungary: Decision 33/2012.(VII. 17.) Budapest, 16 July 2016. Available: http://public.mkab.hu/dev/dontesek.nsf/0/0d0c4a0c9bf49cc4c1257ada00524f96/$FILE/EN_0033_2012.pdf

[21] European Parliament: REPORT on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary (pursuant to the European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2012). 25 June 2013. Available: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+REPORT+A7-2013-0229+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

[22] Act CLXXXV of 2010 on Media Services and on the Mass Media. Available: http://hunmedialaw.org/dokumentum/153/Mttv_110803_EN_final.pdf

[23] European Parliament: RESOLUTION of 10 March 2011 on media law in Hungary. 10 March 2011. Available: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0094+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

[24] MTI: ’EC receives draft amendments to Hungarian media law’ 11 February 2011. Available: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/d-tr/dv/0217_9b_/0217_9b_en.pdf

[25] Reuters: ‘Hungary cuts household energy prices by 10 pct’ Reuters, 12 December 2012. Available: https://www.reuters.com/article/hungary-energy-prices-idUSL5E8NC92W20121212

[26] CJEU: C‑771/18 - ARRÊT DE LA COUR (neuvième chambre), 16 juillet 2020, (No EN version available). Available: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=228671&pageIndex=0&doclang=hu&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=9788932

[27] ECHR: Judgment in the case of R.Sz. v Hungary. 2 July 2013. Available: https://fra.europa.eu/en/caselaw-reference/ecthr-application-no-4183811-judgment

[28] ECHR: Judgement in the case of Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and others v. Hungary. 8 September 2014. Available: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-142196%22]}

[29] European Commission: EU Anti-Corruption Report. COM(2014) 38 final. Brussels, 3 February 2014. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/e-library/documents/policies/organized-crime-and-human-trafficking/corruption/docs/acr_2014_en.pdf

[30] Gideon Rachman: ’Viktor Orban’s illiberal world’ Financial Times, 30 July 2014Az űrlap alja

. Available: https://www.ft.com/content/bbdb6b6f-c12a-3b38-95d2-0244260ce753

[31] Venice Commission: Hungary Opinion on the draft law on the transparency of organizations receiving support from abroad - Adopted by the Venice Commission at its 111th Plenary Session (Venice, 16-17 June 2017) CDL-AD(2017)015 Strasbourg, 20 June 2017 Available: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2017)015-e

[32] Ibid.

[33] Commissioner for Human Rights: ’Commissioner calls on Hungary’s National Assembly to reject law on foreign-funded NGOs’ Strasbourg, 3 May 2017. Available: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/commissioner-calls-on-hungary-s-national-assembly-to-reject-law-on-foreign-funded-ngos

[34] CJEU: C‑78/18 - JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Grand Chamber) 18 June 2020. Available: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=227569&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=12376737

[35] Dan Alexe: ‘Commission slams Hungary Internet Tax – bad in principle, bad in practice’ Neweurope, 28 October 2014. Available: https://www.neweurope.eu/article/commission-slams-hungary-internet-tax-bad-principle-bad-practice/

[36] European Commission: Possible aid to the Paks nuclear power station in Hungary SA.38454. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/competition/elojade/isef/case_details.cfm?proc_code=3_SA_38454

[37] EU Business Breaking News: ‘EU takes Hungary to task over death penalty debate’ EUBusiness. Available: https://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/hungary-politics.10yi

[38] CJEU: PRESS RELEASE, Advocate General’s Opinions in Cases C-562/19 P Commission v Poland and C-596/19 P Commission v Hungary. 15 October 2020. Available: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2020-10/cp200132en.pdf

[39] Pablo Gorondi: ‘Hungary touts family policies as alternative to immigration’ AP News, 5 September 2019. Available: https://apnews.com/article/279dfc17b13340e0bc272717cf75b768

[40] Than Krisztina: ‘On the other side of Hungary's fence: 'Thank God for Orban!'’ Reuters, 17 September 2015

Available: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-hungary-fence-idUSKCN0RH2C320150917

[41] CJEU: Application - Action brought on 8 November 2019 — European Commission v Hungary

(Case C-821/19). 8 November 2019. Available: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=immigration&docid=222334&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=12377593#ctx1

[42] European Commission: ‘“Stop Brussels”: European Commission responds to Hungarian national consultation’ 27 April 2017. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/stop-brussels-european-commission-responds-hungarian-national-consultation_en

[43] OLAF: The OLAF report 2015. 2015. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/anti-fraud/sites/antifraud/files/olaf_report_2015_en.pdf

[44] CJEU: PRESS RELEASE Judgment in Case C-66/18 Commission v Hungary. 6 October 2020. Available: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2020-10/cp200125en.pdf

[45] Eszter Zalán: ‘Orban move evicting Budapest university 'unlawful'’7 October 2020. Available: https://euobserver.com/political/149660

[46] CJEU: PRESS RELEASE Judgment in Case C-235/17 Commission v Hungary. 21 May 2019. Available: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2019-05/cp190065en.pdf

[47] FRA: ’Examining measures to counter Roma segregation in Hungary’ 21 September 2018.

Available: https://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2018/examining-measures-counter-roma-segregation-hungary

[48] Maia de la Baume, Lili Bayer, Jacopo Barigazzi: ’EPP prolongs suspension of Hungary’s Fidesz indefinitely’ Politico, 3 February 2020. Available: https://www.politico.eu/article/epp-prolongs-suspension-of-hungarys-fidesz-indefinitely/

[49] European Parliament: REPORT on a proposal calling on the Council to determine, pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded. 4 July 2018. Available: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-8-2018-0250_EN.html

[50] European Parliament: ‘Results of vote in Parliament - Final vote 12/09/2018. Available: https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/printsda.pdf?id=31378&l=en

[51] European Commission: ‘Rule of Law in relation to the EU budget for the future’ 2018. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/com-2018-324_en

[52] Jennifer Rankin: ‘Brussels accuses Orbán of peddling conspiracy theory with Juncker poster’ The Guardian, 19 February 2019. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/19/brussels-orban-jean-claude-juncker-poster-george-soros-hungary

[53] European Commisson: 2020 Rule of Law Report - Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Hungary. 2020 SWD(2020) 316 final. 30 September 2020. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/hu_rol_country_chapter.pdf

[54] European Commission - European Social Policy Network: ‘National strategies to fight homelessness and housing exclusion Hungary’ (Fruzsina Albert, Nóra Teller, Boróka Fehér and Lea Kőszeghy) 2019.

[55] CJEU: PRESS RELEASE Judgment in Joined Cases C-924/19 PPU and C-925/19 PPU FMS and Others v Országos Idegenrendeszeti Főigazgatóság Dél-alföldi Regionális Igazgatóság and Országos Idegenrendeszeti Főigazgatóság. 14 May 2020 Available: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2020-05/cp200060en.pdf

[56] European Commission: ‘Discrimination in the EU’ 2019. Available:

https://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/Survey/getSurveyDetail/instruments/SPECIAL/search/discrimination/surveyKy/2251

[57] European Parliament: ‘Hungary’s emergency measures: MEPs ask EU to impose sanctions and stop payments’ 14 May 2020. Available: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20200512IPR78917/hungary-s-emergency-measures-meps-ask-eu-to-impose-sanctions-and-stop-payments

[58] European Commission – OLAF: ‘OLAF in 2019: investigations stop fraud across borders and sectors’

10 September 2020. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/anti-fraud/media-corner/news/10-09-2020/olaf-2019-investigations-stop-fraud-across-borders-and-sectors_en

[59] See the background of the Strikes at Daily News Hungary: Search results: ‘Strike’ Available: https://dailynewshungary.com/tag/strike/

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