The Hungarian government provided detailed comments on the so-called Tavares Report regarding the situation of fundamental rights in Hungary, which will soon be discussed by Members of the European Parliament. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), and the Standards (Mérték) Media Monitor responded to the government’s inaccurate and unfounded comments in an analysis submitted to the factions of the European Parliament.
In early May the European Parliament made public a draft version of the report that it had instructed the EP’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to draft last year. The report, submitted by rapporteur MEP Rui Tavares, primarily concerns the legislative steps of the past three years that have affected the situation of fundamental rights and the rule of law in Hungary. The report provides recommendations both to the European Union and to the Hungarian government. The Hungarian government issued a position and commented in great length on the draft report.
The HHC, the HCLU and the Mérték are of the opinion that in many instances the comments of the government failed to respect the facts, an expectation that the government itself demanded. The three NGOs drafted a document to correct the comments by the government that questioned the accuracy of the draft report and contained misleading or false statements. The following issues were of special concern:
- contrary to statements by the government, the drafting and adoption of the Fundamental Law suffered from a serious lack of legitimacy;
- the Constitutional Court did not ask the Parliament to adopt the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law, and, furthermore, the Fourth Amendment contains a number of provisions that the Constitutional Court previously annulled for being unconstitutional, which approach also violates the standards of the Venice Commission;
- despite the governments denial, the governing coalition in fact limited the powers of the Constitutional Court;
- the government, contrary to its statements, has not remedied the situation of judges affected by mandatory early retirement;
- contrary to statements by the government, the scope of cardinal laws, the high number of Bills submitted by individual MPs and the constitutional position of the Budget Council all undermine democracy;
- the government fails to mention that the rules on campaign advertising recently added to the Fundamental Law are unconstitutional because they pose an unjustified limit on democratic competition and the freedom of speech;
- the rules created to protect vulnerable minorities are just a pretense because authorities regularly fail to apply existing tools;
- contrary to the statements by the government, the provisions of the law on religious freedom that the Constitutional Court annulled are now included in the Fundamental Law, thus the Parliament retains the right to recognize churches on arbitrary grounds with no effective legal remedy against its negative decision.
The debate of the draft report by the European Parliament will take place next month. The three NGOs submitted their comments to the political groups of the EP to provide accurate background information for the debate.