Hungary: MEPs to assess whether there is a risk of seriously breaching EU values
Civil Liberties MEPs will assess in the coming months whether Hungary is at risk of a serious breach of EU values. If this is the case, Parliament could ask the Council to act.
Noting a deterioration of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Hungary and on the basis of Article 7(1) of the EU Treaty, MEPs at plenary requested the Civil Liberties Committee in May to draw up a formal resolution. To be adopted by plenary, this resolution will need to be backed by two-thirds of the votes cast and an absolute majority of MEPs, i.e. at least 376 votes.
As a next step in the Article 7 procedure, Council may then determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values by Hungary and address specific recommendations to Budapest to counter it. Such a Council decision would require a fourth-fifths majority of the member states.
Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL), Parliament’s rapporteur, will present her draft report to the Civil Liberties Committee in March 2018. Other MEPs will have until April to table amendments; the vote in committee is slated for June 2018.
The parliamentary committees on Culture and Education, and on Constitutional Affairs will both deliver opinions. The Budgetary Control Committee has also requested to table an opinion.
The resolution will be put to a vote in plenary in September 2018.
The Civil Liberties Committee plans to hold a public hearing by the end of this year with representatives of the Hungarian government, civil society and experts.
EP rapporteur Judith Sargentini said: “I am glad we can start working on this report. It will be the first time the European Parliament will carry out this procedure, so I want to make sure we have a transparent and thorough investigation before getting to conclusions. I look forward to talking to Hungarian authorities, civil society, scientists and other persons involved to get a balanced view of the situation in Hungary.”
Article 7 of the Treaty, which has so far never been used, provides a mechanism to enforce EU values.
Under Article 7(1), and following an initiative by one third of member states, by Parliament or by the Commission, the Council may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values by a member state and, in order to prevent an actual breach, it may address specific recommendations to the country concerned.
Under Article 7(2), an actual breach of EU values can be determined by the Council on a proposal by a third of member states or the Commission. The Council needs to decide by unanimity and the Parliament needs to give its consent. Article 7(3) launches sanctions, such as the suspension of voting rights in the Council.
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