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CJEU dismisses Hungary’s action against EP resolution triggering Article 7 procedure

The Court of Justice of the European Union dismissed on Thursday Hungary's action against a European Parliament resolution triggering an Article 7 procedure. In September 2018, the EP adopted a resolution to determine, pursuant to Article 7, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the EU is founded.

In September 2018, the EP adopted a resolution to determine, pursuant to Article 7, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the EU is founded.

Taking the view that, when calculating the votes cast, the EP should have taken account of abstentions, Hungary brought action for the annulment of that resolution.

The CJEU has ruled that MEPs’ abstentions do not have to be counted in order to determine the two-thirds majority of the votes cast.

The court said the term “votes cast” does not include abstentions which are, by definition, a refusal to cast a vote. Therefore, excluding them from the vote count is in line with democratic principles, and with the principle of equal treatment, “in the light, in particular, of the fact that the MEPs who abstained on the occasion of the vote acted with full knowledge of the facts, since they had been informed in advance that abstentions would not be counted as votes cast,” the court said in a press release.

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga called the decision “completely unacceptable and shocking”.

“In our view, the vote was not only contrary to EU Treaties, but also to the European Parliament’s own Rules of Procedure,” Varga said in a Facebook post.

Had the EP included abstentions in the votes counted, the two-thirds majority required to adopt the “politically biased” Sargentini report at the root of the Article 7 procedure would not have been reached, Varga said.

“As we all know, abstention means a tacit disagreement … the conscious political will of MEPs … Otherwise, they wouldn’t even go to the polls,” Varga insisted.

“And still, we are the ones who are held accountable for adhering to common values and rules? Come on!” Varga said.

She noted, at the same time, that the ruling has no bearing on the contents of the Sargentini report. “The report’s accusations have been refuted by the Hungarian Government on several occasions, both professionally and in principle,” Varga said.

“As before, in the spirit of loyal co-operation, Hungary is ready for a dialogue on issues related to rule of law. However, we will keep rejecting politically motivated witch hunts,” Varga said.

Balazs Hidveghi, a ruling Fidesz MEP, said the Luxembourg court had been “sitting for two-and-a-half years on a simple voting issue” and, in that light, a decision on another matter “concerning serious legal and political questions” should take them “many times as long” or else “one might have the impression that the CJEU decides under political pressure in cases crucial for Brussels”.

Hidveghi slammed the court for endorsing the decision not to include abstentions in respect of the Sargentini report, calling it a “strange decision”. “Be it on their conscience,” he said. Irrespective of the decision, he added, the report was “full of falsehoods and lies, which Hungary has refuted on many occasions.”

Hidveghi said the report was “part of a campaign of political retaliation against Hungary launched because of Hungary’s anti-migration stance and its rejection of the migrant quota.”

Referring to the issue of the rule of law before the court, Hidveghi said this matter was “much more complex”, an appeal lodged by Hungary against an European decree under which EU funds are withheld from “certain member states if what they do is not acceptable politically”. If the court passes a quick decision concerning the appeal, “one might think that the European Court has been involved in political blackmail, which is against the spirit of the EU and its treaties.”

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