BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will suspend the launch of a new administrative court system indefinitely to allow disputes about judicial independence to be settled, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.
Changes to Hungary’s judiciary proposed by the nationalist ruling Fidesz party have been at the heart of a confrontation with the European Union, which says some of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s reforms threaten democracy and the rule of law.
Hungary passed a law late last year to set up courts overseen directly by the justice minister, a move critics said could allow political interference in judicial matters.
Early this year, Hungary had already modified some aspects of the reform criticised by the Venice Commission, a European panel of constitutional law experts.
“The government will initiate the indefinite suspension of the launch of the administrative court system,” Gergely Gulyas, Orban’s chief of staff, told a news conference.
“We believe that the law meets European standards and rule-of-law requirements,” he said. “However, the administrative court system has been caught up in debates in Europe, which have unjustifiably called judicial independence into question.”
The administrative courts had been due to take over cases about government business such as taxation and elections currently handled in the main legal system.
The government said the courts would be presided over by independent judges who would be able to handle cases more efficiently.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean)