EU top court should dismiss Hungary's bid to challenge Article 7 action, says Advocate General

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By Alice Tidey
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

The European Court of Justice should dismiss Hungary's bid to annul an EU Parliament resolution urging the bloc to take disciplinary action against the member state over alleged backsliding on the rule of law, Advocate General Michal Bobek said on Thursday.

Bobek's opinion is not legally-binding but nonetheless deals a huge blow to Hungary as such decisions are usually a good indicator of which way the Court will eventually sway.

Euronews has contacted Hungary's Justice Ministry for comment.

The Hungarian government launched legal action against the European parliament in October 2018, a month after MEPs voted to trigger Article 7 proceedings against the country.

Article 7, often dubbed the "nuclear option, is the EU's punishment clause, allowing it to discipline member states when there is a "clear risk of a serious breach" of the bloc's core principles.

Hungary argued at the time that lawmakers in the European parliament "seriously infringed" EU rules of procedure by only counting votes for and against and excluding abstentions and by failing to consult the parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs.

"If the abstentions had been counted, the result of the voting would have been different," it said.

But Bobek said that MEPS had been "duly informed, one and a half days" before the vote that abstentions would not be counted as votes cast.

"They were well aware of the rules applying to the voting process and could, therefore, exercise their right to vote in the light of those rules," he wrote.

He also stressed that "the Parliament's Rules of Procedure do not contain any obligation to consult that committee [on Constitutional Affairs] in order to interpret the voting rules."

Bobek said the lawsuit was admissible as the Article 7 procedure "carries legal consequences" for the member state but nonetheless ruled that "the Court should dismiss Hungary's action as unfounded."