Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Union chief executive, issued a strongly-worded challlenge to the Hungary leader’s suggestion of reintroducing capital punishment.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party said it wanted to raise the question of a possible reintroduction of the death penalty with its EU partners.
Capital punishment was abolished in the country after the fall of Communism in 1990 but the recent murder of a young tobacconist in the south of the country sparked public anger.
Orban said capital punishment should be kept on the agenda in Hungary while Fidesz parliament caucus leader Antal Rogan said on public radio “if a country’s public wants to have the death penalty … then a substantial debate can be raised on the EU level”.
But Juncker rebuffed the suggestion saying the EU’s constitution forbids the death penalty.
“Mr. Orban must immediately make clear that this is not his intention,” he said. “If it would be his intention it would be a fight.”
At the European Parliament, Austrian Socialist MEP Joerg Leichtfried called any return to capital punishment “barbaric and an infringement of European law” while Niels Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, said the death penalty would be “incompatible with Hungary’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and runs contrary to the values that Europe stands for”.