EC wishes to see text of newly adopted status law

July 05. 2023. – 03:37 PM



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As expected, at Wednesday's plenary session, the European Commission adopted the 2023 Rule of Law Report for the 27 Member States, including Hungary – Vera Jurová, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, told a press conference on Wednesday.

This rule of law report is the fourth in a row, and the Commission considers it a glue of European democracy, a tool which tells where each member state stands, and what problems they each are facing. It is also the EU's label for the rule of law. "We can only be credible if there's order within our own premises (...) We take the rule of law issues very seriously," she said.

Four areas are closely scrutinised in the rule of law report: national judicial systems, anti-corruption systems, media pluralism and institutional checks and balances.

A serious process

The Rule of Law Report, – Vera Jurová explained – provides an opportunity for ongoing dialogue, and at the same time helps to raise awareness of the problems in the Member States and to identify where further development is needed.

"The report is a serious process, with hundreds of meetings behind it. We spoke with 750 national authorities, NGOs and stakeholders in all 27 Member States. We have held more than 530 meetings" – In 2022, this number was 500 and in 2021, only 400 – Jurová said, summing up the progress in figures.

This was the first time that recommendations made last year were examined and written feedback was provided on them. About two thirds of the 2022 recommendations have been implemented, albeit at very different pace. In addition to the recommendations, other tools are available for rule of law cases, such as infringement procedures and the reconstruction plan. "This is particularly important for Poland and Hungary," said Jurová.

No radical backsliding was observed anywhere, "the EU is a stable democracy", but the Commission's assessment is that further reforms are needed in member states and that in some member states, the systemic risk remains.

Didier Reynders continued by saying that in many cases they see key guarantees in the area of judicial reform, but for example the remuneration of judges and prosecutors remains a concern in some places.

Among the tangible results, he cited Luxembourg, where a comprehensive reform has been implemented, but less positive results include Spain, where the renewal of the Judicial Council was recommended as a priority for 2022, but no progress has been made since then.

"We have also partly tried to address previous recommendations within the RRP, e.g. in the case of Hungary, where recommendations on the justice system are now being presented as milestones within the recovery plan," Reynders added.

He touched on media pluralism as well, saying that a negative trend is emerging compared to the 2022 report. They do see some improvement in transparency, but there still are journalists who are targeted for their work.

On migration bodies, Reynders spoke of concerns, and on the balance of powers, he said that steps had been taken in several member states to ensure adequate participation, for example by NGOs. “However, there are difficulties in several member states, e.g. because there is no proper consultation framework or their practical involvement is not adequate.”

Where Hungary currently stands

Although the Hungarian results were not specifically discussed at the press conference, they were mentioned by Vera Jourová at a press briefing in Brussels prior to the conference. The Commission's Vice President said that there had been a slight improvement in the Hungarian justice system through budget restraint, as well as that she was satisfied with the public media and the functioning of the media authority. The Commission will also examine the text of the status law adopted on Tuesday, Euronews reports.

The Vice-President added that they also see some progress in terms of the rule of law in Hungary, which they believe is due to the financial negotiations on the Recovery Funds.

The Commission Vice-President said that two recommendations have been fully implemented by the Hungarian government: one is the strengthening of the independence of the National Council of the Judiciary,

The second was the amendment of the rules governing the Supreme Court, which abolished the appointment of judges outside the ordinary procedure and strengthened the criteria for the eligibility of the president.

In addition, the EU has made recommendations to Hungary on seven other issues, including the editorial independence of public service media, the securing of the independence of the Media Authority and transparency in state-owned companies' spending on marketing.

Jourová also said that Hungary is currently the only country in the European Union with a nationwide emergency governance. In other countries, the emergency is limited to one region at most.

The Vice-President also briefly reacted to the status law adopted by Parliament on Tuesday, which has been heavily criticised by teachers' unions and teachers. Jourová said they would like to see the final text of the law as adopted, and noted that some conditions of the Restoration Funds are linked to teachers' salaries.

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