The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee has said it will vote on a draft report criticising the state of the rule of law in Hungary next Monday.
As we wrote yesterday, the Hungarian parliament on Wednesday passed the “Stop Soros” package of laws that penalise activities in support of illegal migration. The bills contain amendments to the penal code that sanction entities or organisations that “facilitate illegal migration” or help with the asylum application procedures of migrants arriving from safe countries, read more details HERE.
Last spring, the EP’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) was asked to prepare a report on Hungary with a view to holding an EP vote on launching the first steps of Article 7, which suspends voting rights. The committee released the draft report in April.
More than 260 amendment proposals have been submitted to the draft report, Green MEP Judith Sargentini, the author of the report, said in a debate on the amendments to the report in a session of the LIBE committee on Wednesday.
Sargentini expressed regret over the Hungarian parliament’s recent passage of a government-initiated constitutional amendment and the “Stop Soros” package of laws that penalise activities in support of illegal migration.
In connection with the latter, she said the Hungarian government had been issued a “very humble” request not to pass the legislation until the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission released its opinion on it this coming Friday. But the Hungarian authorities had not fulfilled it, she added.
Sargentini said certain amendment proposals to the draft report would now be changed to reflect the new situation in Hungary.
Poland’s Michal Boni of the European People’s Party (EPP) said the report was not aimed against Hungary and was solely about the Hungarian government and that “it has violated a number of rules”.
In reference to one of the constitutional amendments, Boni said the “criminalisation” of homelessness and the imposition of special taxes on civil groups aiding refugees were “dangerous” measures. He said the EU had to be strict and send a clear message that such measures were “unacceptable”.
Austrian Social Democrat MEP Josef Weidenholzer praised the draft report which he called “factual and evidence-based”.
Marek Jurek of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group said the document would only deepen the crisis of the European Union and create new conflicts. Every nation has the right to shape their own policies, he said, adding that there are opposition parties in Hungary and that the current government could be voted out.
Fidesz MEP Kinga Gál said:
“The report is full of untruths and factual errors, and concerns a number of issues that have either already been resolved or aren’t even EU competencies.”
She said Hungarian EPP members had submitted 130 amendment proposals to the report with a view to pointing out that basic European values were not under threat in Hungary. But the committee only wanted to incorporate “a couple of sentences” from these proposals into the joint amendment proposal, which she said Fidesz MEPs had rejected.
Democratic Coalition MEP Péter Niedermüller called the draft report “very balanced, moderate and objective”. He said
the laws passed by Hungary on Wednesday made it even more clear that “in a European sense, there is no democracy in Hungary.”
Tibor Szanyi of the Socialist Party said basic democratic conditions were “barely met” in Hungary. “The situation is considerably worse than the LIBE committee’s report admits, so Hungarians could use some European solidarity,” he said.