EU mulls legal action against Hungary

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EU mulls legal action against Hungary

Brussels, Apr 12 (AFP) The European Union warned today it could launch legal action within weeks against member state Hungary’s right-wing government to enforce EU democratic norms.

The EU has expressed fears that Hungary is undermining academic freedom, non-government organisations and the rights of asylum seekers.

“The College will review all these issues closely when it takes the next round of infringement decisions at the end of April,” European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said, referring to an EU Commission body.

“Wherever individual cases are legally mature and our legal concerns remain unaddressed, we will move to the next steps,” he told a press conference.

The college, which gathers the 28 commissioners of the European Commission, the EU executive, is due to meet April 27 to discuss so-called infringement proceedings.

If launched, such proceedings involve long series of consultations to determine if EU laws have been breached. If needed, the Commission can refer cases to the European Court of Justice, which could impose fines.

But Timmermans said the Commission wants for now to pursue a political dialogue to resolve the points of contention and determine what Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s views are on the rule of law.

Timmermans, the Dutch right-hand man of Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, said not only is Orban open to such a dialogue, but “in the view of the Commission today, there is not a systemic threat to the rule of law in Hungary.” He said the situation contrasts with that in Poland, whose right-wing government was accused last year of violating EU rule of law norms with changes to the Constitutional Court.

It started a long process which could eventually see Warsaw’s voting rights suspended in the Council of Ministers, the EU’s highest decision-making body.

Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has criticised Hungarian legislation that could force the closure of the Central European University in Budapest founded by US billionaire investor George Soros.

He has also lashed out at the Orban government for posting questionnaires titled “Let’s stop Brussels!” to households nationwide asking them how to deal with EU policies that it says threaten their independence.

The EU is concerned too about legislation due to go to the Hungarian parliament in May forcing NGOs receiving more than 7.2 million forints (around 23,000 euros) annually from abroad to “register” with the authorities.

Failure to comply could result in the closure of the organisations. (AFP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.