1.1 C
New York

Hungary and E.U. Lock Horns Over Sovereignty Law

Published:

Just days after a major showdown between the European Union and Hungary over aid to Ukraine, the European Commission on Wednesday announced it was opening a new disciplinary procedure against the Hungarian government over a recently passed piece of legislation that focuses on activities by foreigners deemed subversive.

The move comes on top of several other open disciplinary procedures against Hungary that the European Commission, the E.U. executive branch, has been pursuing against the government of the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Mr. Orban has long denounced the battles with Brussels, which he says pits a “woke globalist Goliath” against Hungary’s “David.” He has maintained that the European Union is out to punish him for pursuing a Christian conservative agenda, which he says is in line with the wishes of the Hungarian people.

The action by the commission centers on recently passed legislation in Hungary that seeks to punish interactions between Hungarian individuals or organizations, and foreigners or foreign groups that a newly created Office for the Defense of Sovereignty deems subversive.

In a statement on Wednesday, the European Commission said it had opened the infringement procedure after “a thorough assessment” of the Hungarian law.

The commission said that Hungary’s legislation “violates several provisions” of European law, including internal market rules, democratic values and electoral rights. It also said that the legislation went counter to fundamental rights such as the right to a fair trial and freedom of association.

“The setup of a new authority with wide-ranging powers and a strict regime of monitoring, enforcement and sanctioning also poses risks to seriously harm the democracy in Hungary,” Anitta Hipper, the commission’s spokeswoman for home affairs, said on Wednesday.

Hungary has two months to reply. The disciplinary procedure could result in the commission’s taking Hungary to the European Union’s top court and the imposition of financial penalties.

The United States in December expressed similar concern about the Office for the Defense of Sovereignty, saying that it “equips the Hungarian government with draconian tools that can be used to intimidate and punish those with views not shared by the ruling party.”

The U.S. State Department said that the authority could be used to subject Hungarian citizens, businesses, and organizations “to intrusive investigations with no judicial oversight, even if they have had no contact with or support from a foreign government or foreign entity,” adding, “This new law is inconsistent with our shared values of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”

The legislation and the authority it establishes have also raised concerns among rights groups that have long been squeezed by the Hungarian authorities.

Dunja Mijatovic, a top official at the Council of Europe, a major human rights organization, said in a statement in November that the plan to set up the Office for the Defense of Sovereignty “poses a significant risk to human rights and should be abandoned.”

The European Commission has withheld over 20 billion euros, about $21.5 billion, from Hungary over various violations of E.U. rules pertaining to judicial independence, corruption and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Asked whether the commission would be releasing any of those funds, Arianna Podesta, a spokeswoman, told journalists on Wednesday, “We are not there yet.”

Related articles

Recent articles

spot_img