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Rule of law mechanism: A procedure without law? | View

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By Judit Varga

Hungary’s commitment to the Union and its values are above any question, these values are an imminent part of our Fundamental Law. We stand firmly by the facts and data which refute every unjust accusation made against us.

Judit Varga Hungarian minister of state for EU relations

Hungary is inevitably in the focus of European politics. On 12 September, the European Parliament (EP) adopted its resolution against Hungary calling on the Council pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union to determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the values on which the Union was founded.

The Hungarian government regards the resolution on triggering Article 7 procedure as a punishment for its anti-migration policy, wrapped in the infamous and to some extent vague rule of law procedure.

It must be made clear at this stage that Hungary still has serious concerns regarding the voting procedure: by excluding abstentions when counting two-third majority of the votes cast the EP breached both the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and its own Rules of Procedure. Taking into account the abstentions would have altered the result of the vote.

Therefore, Hungary has turned to the Court of Justice of the European Union for the annulment of the EP’s action as the Resolution suffers from a serious breach of an essential procedural rule. However, the Article 7 procedure continues its evolution on the Council’s agenda when naturally the Hungarian Government is ready to take part in any factual and legally sound dialogue where procedural guarantees are respected.

The battle rages over legal issues while its motives are clearly ideological and political. When the Treaty of Lisbon was adopted, the Article 7 procedure raised many questions. Critics stated that it could once be exploited as a political tool turned against any Member State and thus could easily backfire. Their concerns are now real as the witch-hunt against Hungary continues for not giving up on its migration policy. The procedure is covered in a legal sugar-coat, to “sell it” easier and to spitefully deceive the international public.

Hungary’s commitment to the Union and its values are above any question, these values are an imminent part of our Fundamental Law. We stand firmly by the facts and data which refute every unjust accusation made against us. The Hungarian Government prepared a 131-page long Information Note to prove the absurdity of the allegations on the systematic threat of breaching any core values.

Underlining inter alia the overreach in sovereign states’ domestic affairs, in which the EU has no competence whatsoever. Moreover its cherry-picking attempt to reopen closed cases successfully resolved with the European Commission, or to interfere in ongoing legal disputes that are strictly confidential issues of a Member State.

Furthermore, we must not forget that the EP tries to intervene in the process of the Council as an actor with full competence. This clearly runs counter to the Council Legal Service’s opinion which states there is no role for the EP under TFEU in this phase of the Article 7 procedure. Is rule of law really important here? Or better: you can see a mote in another’s eye yet cannot see a beam in your own?

On the day of the General Affairs Council, MEP Sargentini took part in an informal meeting in the Council’s building, implying on social media as if she had been invited to the official General Affairs Council meeting; this is politics of a great illusionary. Her behaviour demonstrates the political motive against Hungary, which was also present in the preparation of her infamous report. Most of the official EP procedure happened behind closed doors, and deliberately ignored the calls for open discussion. In comparison, the Hungarian Government showed openness numerous times, for example in the case of our Media Law or the constitutional reform, where we were ready to amend even our Fundamental Law for the sake of a compromise many years ago.

As usual, we are still ready and willing to engage in a constructive and mutually open dialogue with anyone criticizing us today. Instead of shying away we will let our voice, our truth be heard. The decision is in the hands of the Council and by that naturally the Member States. We do hope they are going to have a thorough and non-partisan reading of our long Information Note.

For the rest, we are here as always, ready for a fair dialogue of mutual respect and equal stand. Let me recall Prime Minister Orbán commemorating the late Helmut Kohl this summer: “T„those who deal with European politics nowadays need composure, calm nerves, courage and a good sense of timing.” While talking the talk we will also walk the walk.

Judit Varga is Hungarian minister of state for EU relations.

Opinions expressed in View articles are solely those of the authors.