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Brussels says Hungary's rule of law situation has deteriorated, as Budapest digs heels in

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By Sandor Zsiros
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Hungary's Justice Minister Judit Varga
Hungary's Justice Minister Judit Varga   -   Copyright  Olivier Matthys/AP Photo

The European Commission says Hungary's performance related to the rule of law deteriorated last year, especially on LGBT rights and with the phone tapping of opposition journalists and businessmen.

The so-called Article 7 process was launched four years ago against Hungary's populist government, led by Viktor Orbán, in order to force Hungary back to the core values of the EU, so far with very limited results.

But Budapest is standing firm and does not intend to take any steps to please Brussels, according to the country's justice minister, Judit Varga.

“The most important message is that on April 3 Hungarians have decided," Varga said. "People are also following European events, and their response to the Article 7 procedure is that they support the Hungarian government's policy on Europe and on all other issues related to the rule of law. 

"They know that what the Hungarian national conservative government is doing, is good for the Hungarian people. And a mandate of more than three million voters overwrites everything and gives the right answers to everything."

Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands are the most critical voices against Hungary when it comes to democracy and values. 

Danish foreign affairs minister Jeppe Kofod has criticised the political environment before the elections.

For Dániel Hegedűs, an analyst at the German Marshall Fund, the Article 7 process is unlikely to lead to sanctions or an agreement anytime soon.

“Over the past nearly four years, these hearings practically lead nowhere," Hegedűs told Euronews. "I would not say that they are useless because it always used the tool to exert some leverage or pressure over the governments in the European Union, be it the Hungarian or the Polish."

Brussels has recently approved the so-called budget conditionality mechanism – which means Hungary could lose EU funds if it fails to demonstrate a commitment to fight corruption.

But the EU also needs the goodwill of Budapest because for the latest round of the proposed sanctions against Moscow, unanimity is needed and so far Hungary is blocking the planned oil embargo on Russia.