EU launches infringement procedure against Hungary over Sovereignty Protection Act
February 07. 2024. – 01:36 PM
The European Commission has today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary over its violations of EU law. The decision follows a thorough assessment of Hungary's new law on the protection of national sovereignty, adopted in December 2023.
The European Commission has found that the Hungarian law in question violates several provisions of primary and secondary EU law, including:
- the EU's democratic values,
- the principle of democracy and the electoral rights of EU citizens,
- a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (such as the right to the respect of private and family life, the right to the protection of personal data, the freedom of expression and information, the freedom of association, the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial, the privilege against self-incrimination and the legal professional privilege),
- the requirements of EU law on data protection; and
- several rules applicable to the internal market.
The Hungarian government has two months to respond to the letter of formal notice. If it fails to remedy the objections raised by the Commission, the EU body may choose to send a reasoned opinion as the next step in the infringement procedure. The procedure may end with a court case followed by a fine.
As previously reported, the law is part of a package of legislative amendments, and mainly concerns the newly created Sovereignty Protection Authority. This body can essentially monitor anyone who is believed to be a threat to Hungary's sovereignty.
At a hearing held at the end of January, Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for Justice, revealed that they had already sent a letter to the Hungarian government about the matter in December, outlining their concerns. The European Commission usually sends a similar letter before the formal opening of infringement proceedings. The Justice Commissioner told the European Parliament's committee that "in the absence of a satisfactory reply, the Commission will not hesitate to take necessary action". Just a few days earlier, the head of the Sovereignty Protection Authority, Tamás Lánczi, had said that EU proceedings could be expected over the law.
The Hungarian government set "sovereignty protection" as its new objective at the end of September, after the off-site meeting of the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary group. At the time, Fidesz parliamentary group leader Máté Kocsis said that they believed Hungary's cultural, economic and political sovereignty were under attack. He then went on to announce that the new legislation would restrict the work of "foreign-funded journalists, pseudo-NGOs and dollar-funded politicians" as early as the autumn.
According to NGOs, it is in fact a law desigend to protect an authoritarian system, and its objective is to silence all critical voices. "Journalists, companies, churches, trade unions and municipalities could also be targeted by the new authority," they said in a statement.
On Telex, we have indicated in several articles the serious stakes of the legal package, which Fidesz intends to use "to make things harder" for "foreign-funded journalists, pseudo-NGOs and dollar-funded politicians".
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