Hungary vetoes rule of law proposal

Portfolio
Hungary and Poland on Tuesday blocked a conclusion on the evaluation of the annual rule of law dialogue among member states at a session of the EU's General Affairs Council, Bruxinfo reported. The two countries objected to linking the annual report to the council's dialogue. The Finnish EU presidency published the conclusions, representing consensus among the other 26 member states on strengthening the process. The 26 agreed the dialogue could use the EU commission's planned annual rule of law reports.
Varga Judit magyar vetoGettyImages-1156220693

Reasons and consequences

Speaking to Bruxinfo, Hungary's Justice minister Judit Varga justified the Hungarian position by saying that

We do not want the two processes to be linked and the intergovernmental nature of the rule of law dialogue to be abolished. It is unacceptable for us that member states should base this debate not on their own opinions but on the Commission's position, which was based on unidentified data.

As a result of opposition from Hungary and Poland, the GAC eventually only evaluated the rule of law dialogue, opened in 2014, and the Finnish EU presidency published the conclusion under its own name.

Where will this lead?

The Finnish presidency had planned to publish an assessment on the five years of rule of law dialogue, preparing a conclusion that 26 member states either approved or did not oppose. The governments of Hungary and Poland have recently sent an alternative proposal to the Finnish presidency, but Varga says it was not circulated and so all other member states only found out about the two countries' opposition at the session. Incidentally, Varga also wrote an opinion piece on rule of law published by Euronews the same day.

In the conclusions published by the Finnish presidency, point 10 states that

we agree that this yearly stocktaking could make use of the Commission’s annual rule of law reports, which would create synergies between the institutions;

This means that the statement has not officially gained GAC status and is "only" attributed to the Finnish presidency, but

the point is that they intend to make the Commission's annual country report on rule of law the part of the same process as the dialogue on rule of law that is now based on this report. This would move the EU towards a kind of "rule of law term" modelled after the budget term.

This could have far-reaching consequences as the Commission's report would thus form the basis for any potential corrections and the related topic of EU funding.

"We do not accept this as a basis for dialogue," Varga told Bruxinfo. The minister also objected to the fact that in a break with the method used for guidelines, the Commission has not carried out a regular consultation process before submitting its statement on the annual rule of law revision.

Hungary also has issues with the timing of the linking proposal. "What's the hurry? Why not wait for the von der Leyen Commission to begin work and then have the council decide on the issue?" inquired Varga, who continues to disagree with introducing new tools for enforcing rule of law or fiscal discipline.

"Under no circumstances will Hungary agree to linking EU transfers to the rule of law," Varga told Eurológus after the GAC session, adding that Hungary is disputing the actual method and not the goal itself. There are already measures in place to protect the financial interests of the EU, including contributions made by Hungarian citizens, Varga said.

Hungary is as committed to the rule of law as any other EU member state,

Varga said.

This article is part of the work programme titled "The impacts of EU cohesion policy in Hungary - Present and Future" which is carried out by Net Média Zrt., the publisher of Portfolio.hu, between 1st April 2019 and 31st March 2020 with European Union financing. The views in this article solely reflect the opinions of the author. The European Commission as the funding entity does not take any responsibility for the use of information presented in this article.

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