Justice Ministers discuss rule of law and democracy in Sweden

The justice ministers of Sweden, Hungary, Belgium, and Spain and EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders met in Stockholm.

Justice Minister Judit Varga said on Facebook that issues around the rule of law and democracy were high on the agenda at a meeting of the justice ministers of Sweden, Hungary, Belgium, and Spain and EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in Stockholm.

Participants in the meeting established four goals to “sort out the hopelessly entangled disputes around the rule of law”, she said, adding that clear standards were needed to help the EU become a community of values, to be elaborated by member states. She also added that such standards needed to be established for the EU’s institutions. She also said a “strict methodology” was needed to identify violations of the rule of law and to ensure that measures were taken when necessary and in a proportionate manner. Rather than “hysterics and witch hunts in the media”, objective procedures are needed, she said. Varga warned that rule of law mechanisms did not work unless “institutions and member states consider those mechanisms that they were designed for and in cooperation with them … otherwise they will create divisions and mutual distrust.” “The culture of consensus needs to be rediscovered,” she added. Hungary will work hard to maintain and reinforce the EU’s fundamental values, such as the rule of law, during its EU presidency in the second half of next year, Minister Varga said.

Meanwhile, Minister Varga said in a Facebook post that Hungary is committed to the enlargement of the European Union and supports Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in their European integration efforts. The accession of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to the EU was on the agenda of Thursday’s informal meeting of EU Affairs Ministers in Stockholm, she noted. “Hungary’s position is clear: the credibility and integrity of the EU’s enlargement policy require that we should not forget about the Western Balkan countries, whose enlargement process is equally important for Europe’s future, prosperity, unity and security,” she said. At the same time, she said that the EU’s enlargement policy had to be a balanced, fair process for all candidates, based on equal conditions and merits. “A rushed approach that ignores these aspects is not in the EU’s interest,” she added. Varga also said that “while we appreciate Ukraine’s efforts made so far to meet the criteria for candidate status, there are certain things we cannot ignore”. “Because of the Hungarian minority living in Ukraine, Hungary considers it particularly important to restore the pre-2015 rights of national minorities,” she said. She added that the protection of national minorities was a fundamental value of the EU, “and we expect the Commission to thoroughly monitor Ukraine’s compliance in this area as well”. “National minorities’ rights must be guaranteed in all the laws of Ukraine, in particular the Law on Education, the State Language Law and the Law on National Minorities,” Varga said. “In this respect, the Venice Commission also considers that Ukraine still has much to do,” she added. “This means that we Hungarians cannot support progress towards candidate status for Ukraine without guaranteeing the rights of national minorities,” Minister Varga said.