Brussels denounces Hungary before the European justice for Orbán’s anti-LGTBI law | International
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The European Commission continues with its marking to the millimeter of the anti-democratic drift of Hungary. The Community Executive announced this Friday the decision to bring the wayward neighbor to the East before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for a law that discriminates against people “because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to a statement issued this Friday by the Commission. The Hungarian law, approved in June last year, prohibits talking about sexual orientation in schools and the media. The Executive of the European Union has also denounced Budapest for its refusal to renew the license of Klubradio, a radio station critical of the Government. Both episodes add new battles in the long war by land, sea and air between Brussels and Budapest on account of European values.
The Commission considers that the Hungarian legislation is a clear challenge in terms of the rule of law. The legislation, the statement says, “violates […] the fundamental rights of people (particularly LGBTIQ people)” and also “the values of the EU”. The norm went ahead in the midst of massive protests, which filled the streets of Budapest with rainbow flags, but with the comfortable parliamentary support of the ultra-conservative Fidesz party, of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and the votes of the ultra-nationalist Jobbik formation.
Going to court is nothing new. The appeal to the Luxembourg Court is the next milestone in the long and winding infringement procedure launched by the Commission in July 2021 against Hungary. In the absence of a convincing response from the Hungarian authorities and the absence of concrete measures to reverse the situation, the Commission, which is the institution in charge of ensuring compliance with the Union treaties, has decided to go to court European. The process could end with multi-million dollar penalties.
“Europe will never allow parts of our society to be stigmatized: either because of who they love, because of their age, their ethnicity, their political opinions or their religious beliefs,” said the president of the Community Executive, Ursula von der Leyen, in a appearance in the European Parliament shortly after the Hungarian legislation went ahead.
According to the statement, the Hungarian law “points out and persecutes the contents that promote or represent” what it calls “the divergence of one’s identity corresponding to the sex of birth, the change of sex or homosexuality” for those under 18 years of age. In the Commission’s opinion, this implies a “systematic” violation of several precepts of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, such as “the inviolability of human dignity, the right to freedom of expression and information, the right to private and family life, as well as the right to non-discrimination”. In addition, the European Executive believes that it violates the directives on audiovisual media services regarding the free provision of cross-border audiovisual media services, the directive on electronic commerce, the principle of free provision of services, the right to data protection and the single market transparency directive.
Budapest has regularly argued that its legislation is key to protecting children. Brussels, on the other hand, considers that the law contains provisions that “are not justified in terms of promoting this fundamental interest” or are “disproportionate to achieving the declared objective.”
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This new cannonade comes two days after the Commission published its third annual report on the rule of law, an exhaustive review of the situation of respect for European values in the Twenty-seven, and in which Hungary already had a serious barrage for its continuous breaches related, among other matters, to corruption linked to power elites and attacks on civil society, especially the LGBTI community.
The text on the rule of law denounced the worsening of the situation for civil society, with “a possible chilling effect” in several countries, including Hungary. In this Member State, the text detailed, “independent civil society continues to be under pressure and organizations representing the LGBTI community denounce having been the target of smear campaigns launched by the Government, while the role of the State in financing civil society raises doubts”.
To Hungary, against which the Commission activated in April the so-called conditionality mechanism, a tool to safeguard European funds from non-compliers in matters of European securities, it also demanded that it establish “a solid record of investigations, prosecutions and final sentences in high-level corruption cases”; that guarantees “the independence and effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions”, in addition to addressing “the wide scope of the immunities of senior officials”. Hungary is one of the few community partners that has not yet received the go-ahead for its recovery plan against the blow of the covid, something that Brussels continues to resist precisely because of its breaches in this field.
The State of Law report also gave Budapest a severe slap on the wrist over the situation regarding press freedoms, the center of another of Brussels’ bitter disputes with the Viktor Orbán government. “Continued state advertising to pro-government media outlets creates an uneven playing field in the media landscape,” the report noted, underlining “concern” about the “editorial and financial independence” of public media. “Media professionals continue to face challenges in carrying out their activities, even with the vigilance of investigative journalists,” he added.
This is precisely the field where the Commission has announced another procedure against Hungary. The body led by Von der Leyen has announced this Friday that it is also taking Budapest to European justice for rejecting the renewal of the license of Klubradio, one of the stations most critical of the Orbán government. “Hungary’s disproportionate and discriminatory actions prevented Klubradio from continuing its activity in the broadcasting sector on the basis of radio frequency,” the Commission said in a statement.
The Community Executive believes that “the rights to use radio frequencies must be assigned on the basis of objective, transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate criteria”, something that Hungary contravened. “We address attacks on independent media through all the tools we have,” the European Commissioner for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourová, wrote on social networks when the decision was made public.
The commissioner has also applauded the new step taken by the Executive against Poland in the confrontation on account of two rulings of its Constitutional Court, issued in 2021, which placed the country on the verge of legal rupture with the EU. The decisions of the highest interpreter of the Polish constitution questioned the supremacy of the community legal order over the national one, one of the pillars on which the architecture of the EU rests.
Specifically, the Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Poland this Friday, the next mandatory step in the infringement procedure initiated against Warsaw in December 2021 for the aforementioned sentences. In them, the judicial body “considered […] that the provisions of the EU Treaties were incompatible with the Polish Constitution,” says the statement issued this Friday. Poland now has two months to take the necessary steps to comply with EU law. Otherwise, the Commission could take the case to the Court of Justice.
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