On 12 September 2018, the European Parliament voted to trigger proceedings against Hungary under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union on account of the systemic threat to the core values of the EU. A year later, the risk of a serious breach of the EU founding values has increased: Hungarian authorities have continued to silence dissent and run intimidation campaigns against individuals and organizations that want to hold the government accountable. This has been achieved through enacting or enforcing laws that curb fundamental freedoms and by further increasing government control over the media and the judiciary.
The European Council should now resolutely address the substantive concerns in the Article 7 framework.
After the third two-thirds mandate won by the governing party Fidesz, the Hungarian government adopted amendments to various laws, including the Fundmental Law. The amendements – the government argues – intend to tackle illegal migration, while the real intention is making operations overly burdensome for those who don’t share the government’s opinion on migration. Besides the changes to the Fundamental Law and the Penal Code under the name “Stop Soros” (analysed here), the government also adopted a new specal tax, under the name immigration special tax. It is nothing but a severe restriction of the freedom of speech: those that are supporting immigration in a professional way (doing so in an organized framework, as a calling, while using money from supporters) can, from now on, only do so if paying a special, 25% tax. The new “Stop Soros” provision to the Penal Code threatens human rights’ defenders and lobbyists with prison, while this regulation creates an existential threat for organizations active on immigation. The reality is that the immigration special tax puts limitations on the freedom of speech and on the work of NGOs. The new legislation was adopted by the Parliament, signed by the President of Hungary and came into force on the 25th of August.
The seven-year-old Fundamental Law of Hungary has been amended for the seventh time. Any amendment of the Fundamental Law should theoretically be based on a broad political consensus because a constitution does not reflect the majority’s will, but instead provides a legal framework for a government gaining majority via any democratic election to implement their political commitments. An ideal constitution provides for the possibility to govern according to different ideologies and defines the clear limits of governance that shall not be transgressed.
The Hungarian Government has taken yet to another level its seemingly endless attack againstmigrants, citizens who express their opinions and protest against injustice, civil society organizations, the European Union, the courts and the rule of law.
On 13 February 2018, the Hungarian government introduced in Parliament the ‘Stop Soros’ package, a legislative proposal of three bills that target civil society organisations working on migration.
● Bill T/1976 on the licensing of organisations supporting migration;
● Bill T/19775 on the immigration financing duty;
● Bill T/19774 on the immigration restraint order.
From emerging democracies in transition, illiberal governments have rapidly transformed Hungary and Poland into ill democracies, have attempted to do so in Croatia, and are slowly and carefully entertaining an illiberal platform in Serbia, according to the new case study Resisting Ill Democracies in Europe. The findings, published in English, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian by a group of human rights organisations, are based on their study of ill democracy in Croatia, Hungary, Poland, and Serbia.