The Eötvös Károly Institute, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the HCLU sent an alternative answer to Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice-President, Commissioner in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, with a detailed answer to the questions asked of the Hungarian Government. NGOs state that the government's answers to the serious concerns regarding the independence of the judiciary system and abolition of the Data Protection Commissioner do not prove the government's dedication to democracy and from a professional point of view, its answers are unjustifiable.
Viviane Reding addressed her questions to Mr Tibor Navracsics, Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister, on 12 December 2011. We believe that the answers sent on 17 December do not give an answer to all the concerns and they include false and incomplete arguments. We believe that the decisions intrude upon the independence of the judiciary system and the data protection commissioner can not be measured irrespective to the broader constitutional context. For the latter, Fidesz drastically undermines the system of checks and balances, which threatens the fundamental values of the European Convention of Human Rights, especially the requirements of democracy and rule of law.
Our alternative answers point out the following:
I. The mandatory retirement of crowds of judges should be regarded as a serious intrusion into the independent functioning of the judiciary. This measure was defended with unacceptable reasoning by Tibor Navracsics, stating that young judges need more positions in courts. Our alternative answer points out that in several other fields, individuals older than 62 may continue to exercise their respective legal professions (Constitutional Court judges until reaching the age of 70 and attorneys at law without any limitation), and there are examples for lifelong appointments in other states.
II. The removal of Mr András Baka, President of the Hungarian Supreme Court, also remained unjustified in the government's answer. During the transformation of the Supreme Court into Curia, no substantial modifications have taken place with respect to the tasks and powers, therefore there is no explanation why András Baka is no longer eligible to administer the main body of courts. It is difficult to brush away the suspicion that the new requirement of five years “service relationship as a judge” in the case of the President of the Curia has been codified as an excuse for dismissing András Baka.
III. The removal of the Data Protection Commissioner, Mr. András Jóri, is still regarded as an undefended measure. His term of office would have ended only in 2014, but because of the termination of his office and its replacement with a new authority, another person is being appointed from 1 January 2012. This clearly violates EU laws, but still, the government tries to defend this measure with a false argument stating that by keeping the ombudsman, the Government would have run the risk of not complying with EU law.
We have sent our alternative answer to the Deputy Prime Minister as well and we expect a public reaction from the government.
You can find the joint letter here