On Monday, the Council of the European Union will take up the Sargentini Report, or more precisely, will examine the European Parliament’s recommendation to pursue an Article 7 procedure against Hungary based on the Sargentini Report.
Make no mistake, however, this is not about rule of law. It’s about party politics and an ideological agenda, and though the European Parliament has clearly overstepped its authority, the pro-immigration political parties in the EP will stop at nothing.
“As a result of a political decision,” said Gergely Gulyás, minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office, at a press conference this morning, “there is an ongoing political procedure against Hungary, despite the many attempts to disguise them as rule-of-law concerns.”
The terrible irony here is that Hungary is in the dock for supposedly threatening the rule of law when the European Parliament has completely stepped out of its area of authority, according to the EU treaties. “The European Parliament takes positions on matters,” said Minister Gulyás, “which don’t belong under the European Union’s competence.”
The European Parliament simply does not have a legitimate role here.
"We believe that the accusation stating there is a systemic threat to rule-of-law in Hungary is completely absurd,” said Gulyás.
Reviewing briefly, the European Parliament adopted on September 12th a resolution to launch an Article 7 procedure against Hungary claiming a clear risk of a serious breach of the values on which the Union is founded. Procedure calls for the Council to take the next step and have the EU member states take a position, according to Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union, on whether they see a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of EU values.
Aside from overstepping its authority, the European Parliament’s vote in September to adopt the resolution was, well, a little fast and loose and not exactly according to the rules as laid out in the treaties. (The abstentions should have been counted when calculating the two-thirds, but they simply chose to ignore the abstentions. See more on my previous post, “FM Szijjártó: Sargentini report adopted through voting fraud”.)
The Orbán Government’s position, as Minister Gulyás said this morning, is that “the European Parliament’s adoption of the decision is not valid,” and we are challenging it in the European Court of Justice.
But wait, there’s more. Set aside for a moment the absurd charges and the questionable validity of the vote, this prosecution of Hungary based on the Sargentini Report poses an even graver problem.
Many issues raised in the Sargentini report – like Hungary’s Media Law and the legislation affecting the judicial system – were resolved years ago in negotiations between the Orbán Government and the European Commission. Hungary made some serious changes to those laws based on our discussions with the Commission. “There is no other country with such legislation,” said Minister Gulyás, “that has been so thoroughly examined and approved by European institutions as the Hungarian media law.”
So on what grounds does the European Parliament raise them again among charges of breaching the rule of law? “The launch of the procedure and the arguments in the Sargentini Report send a message to member states,” said Gulyás, “that it’s not worth it to constructively work with the Commission on making compromises or amending laws."
The whole thing’s absurd, and we look forward to the European Court of Justice’s response to our challenge. Nevertheless, Hungary will participate in good faith in Monday’s Council meeting. “We believe this is still the appropriate attitude,” said Gulyás, “despite the signs of severe intolerance against Hungary that we have experienced.”
See also the “Note by the Hungarian Government on the Resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 12th of September 2018 on Hungary,” available here.