Members of the European Parliament’s civil rights committee (LIBE) have advocated an objective approach to the facts in the preparation of a European Parliament report on Hungary.
EU values for Hungary
Rui Tavares, Portuguese Green MEP and rapporteur on the subject, said on Monday that the Parliament’s scrutiny of Hungary aimed to protect the rights and values of the EU and to find out whether those rights were in jeopardy.
He spoke as the LIBE held its first session devoted to monitoring Hungary’s progress in complying with the recommendations of the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe’s constitutional watchdog – regarding judicial independence and freedom of religion.
In the doghouse
Hungary has been under an EU infringement procedure since January over laws concerning the retirement age of judges and the independence of the central bank and data-protection agency. Con-cerns over judicial reforms and laws on the official recognition of churches have also been at the heart of a report published last week by the Venice Commission.
The European Parliament voted in mid-February by 315 for to 263 against (and 49 abstentions) a resolution expressing “serious concerns” over democracy, the rule of the law and the protection of human rights in Hungary.
The resolution called on the LIBE civil liberties committee to investigate in a report the laws drawn up to implement the new Hungarian Constitution. Should the report find a “clear risk of a serious breach of values”, the European Parliament would be tasked to decide whether to activate article 7 of the EU treaty which carries as its ultimate sanction the loss of voting power for the member state.
Tavares said he would resign from his role as spokesman for the Green group in the European Parliament to enable the committee to pursue impartial investigations. With centre-right MEPs opposing the resolution supported by the Liberals and Greens, Tavares said he would strive to overcome the left-right divide over the issue by cooperating with all parliamentary groups.
He suggested a visit to Hungary to obtain information from authorities and civil society. Tavares said the report may take many months to write and that he could not give a date for the end of the investigations, because the report would take into account not only the literal meaning of the legal texts but also the values behind them.