In response to a question, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said on a press conference that holding a referendum on Hungary’s child protection law was “the most democratic solution possible”, arguing that it gave Hungarians a chance to decide on the law’s most important provisions.
He warned against “giving too much importance to” Wednesday’s ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union which said the regulation accepted by the European Parliament and Council on making EU funding conditional on adhering to principles of the rule of law was built on a sound legal footing. Gulyás added that
the ruling would only hurt Hungary if the opposition won the April 3 general election.
Gulyás said he did not expect the EU to sanction Hungary if ruling Fidesz won the election, adding, however, that he believed sanctions could be expected if a new government attempted to amend the constitution with a simple parliamentary majority.
He said that in spite of the disputes with Brussels, Hungary “broke records” over the last 12 years, becoming one of the most effective countries when it came to the drawdown of EU funds both within the Visegrád Group and the bloc as a whole. On another subject, he said the child protection law was the only reason why Brussels had yet to approve Hungary’s post-pandemic recovery plan.
Asked how much the legal fees in the rule-of-law conditionality lawsuit would cost Hungary if it were forced to pay them, Gulyás said he could not provide an exact figure, but
the cost would be “a negligible amount”.
He said the CJEU’s ruling made it clear that the application of the conditionality mechanism was only lawful if the violation of the principle of the rule of law directly impacted the bloc’ financial interests. “And Hungary has been one of the best performing countries in the European Union in this regard, and it has been scrutinised with a magnifying glass for years,” he said.
Hungary will never object to demands for judicial independence by the EU, because that is a part of the rule of law, Gulyás said. “But the question of whether two men should be allowed to get married does not fall under the rule of law, and every member states is free to decide on such an issue,” he argued. “We don’t allow that in Hungary and if someone wants to change that, they have to be Hungarian, they must win the necessary political support for it in Hungary and change the constitution if they have the majority required for it,” he said.
In response to another question, Gulyás said
Hungary would not exercise its veto on other issues because of the CJEU’s rejection of its legal challenge, adding that “we believe in loyal cooperation, so we evaluate every issue on its own merit.”
Gulyás said he was not concerned about the EU potential depriving Hungary of funding as a result of the CJEU’s ruling. Such a scenario, he said, could only unfold if Hungary was governed by political players who did not respect the principle of the rule of law, “but this only applies to the left-wing coalition in Hungary today”.
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