Hungary's Constitution: European Commission Threatens Punitive Actions And Appoints Task Force To Review New Laws
Hungary’s new constitution that came into force on New Year’s Day this year has created a lot of concerns among Hungarians as well as European institutions. Critics argue the new Constitution and the laws that accompany it undermine European treaties and curtails the independence of the media, judiciary as well as the central bank.
Hungarians have taken to the streets and protesting against the right wing government of Viktor Orbán, who rejected appeals from European Commission President Jose Barroso and Economic Affairs Commissioner Ollie Rehn. But Mr. Orban refused to budge including on the principle of the independence of the central bank.
Earlier, Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding had raised questions about the laws and wrote to the Hungarian government last month specifically asking for guarantees to ensure the independence of the national judiciary as well as the national data protection supervisor.
The Commission was forced to act following the refusal of the Hungarian government to change the laws. The EU executive body along with the IMF have broken off the negotiations for a 20 Billion Euro bailout requested by Hungary which it might soon need. However, there is little chance of that negotiation starting up again until the independence of the Central Bank is guaranteed by law.
“We will not be going to Budapest if the implementation of the new rules causes a loss of independence to the Bank of Hungary,” an EU official went on record earlier today. “The governor [of the Bank of Hungary] cannot be subservient to a government appointee, that would effectively reduce him to a vice president without independence, with a commissar above him.”
In addition, the Commission President Barroso has also written to Mr. Orban pointing out that the EU executive body would be forced to take legal action if the laws violate EU treaties. The EU has also appointed a task force led by the former President of Latvia to review the media laws and recommend how they could be rectified. But the Hungarian government is not budging yet although it might be left with no option when it finds there is little interest among investors in purchasing bonds.
This issue also should make euro-sceptics pause. The actions of the Hungarian government are belligerent and it is trying to impose a democratic dictatorship. History shows that more often than not, these turn into full blown dictatorship. These laws undermine democracy and human rights and the Commission is doing the right thing by opposing it and taking action.
While this publication is no fan of Brussels and its bureaucracy, at least on this occasion, the European Commission and even key MEPs are actually trying to protect democracy and fundamental rights of the Hungarians.