Hungary and EU clash over sovereignty law

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Just a few days after a major confrontation between the European Union and Hungary over aid to Ukraine, the European Commission announced on Wednesday the opening of a new disciplinary procedure against the Hungarian government due to a recently adopted bill which focuses on the activities of foreigners deemed subversive.

This decision is in addition to several other disciplinary proceedings opened against Hungary that the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, is pursuing against the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Mr. Orban has long denounced the battles with Brussels, which, according to him, pit a “woke globalist Goliath” against the Hungarian “David”. He claimed the European Union was seeking to punish him for pursuing a conservative Christian agenda, which he said is in line with the wishes of the Hungarian people.

The commission’s action focuses on recently passed legislation in Hungary that aims to punish interactions between Hungarian individuals or organizations and foreigners or foreign groups that a newly created Office for the Defense of Sovereignty considers subversive .

In a statement on WednesdayThe European Commission said it had opened the infringement procedure after “a thorough assessment” of the Hungarian law.

The commission said the Hungarian legislation “violates several provisions” of EU law, including internal market rules, democratic values ​​and electoral rights. He also said the legislation went against fundamental rights such as the right to a fair trial and freedom of association.

“The creation of a new authority with broad powers and a strict regime of monitoring, enforcement and sanctions also poses risks of seriously harming democracy in Hungary,” spokesperson Anitta Hipper said on Wednesday. of the Committee for Home Affairs.

Hungary has two months to respond. The disciplinary procedure could result in the Commission taking Hungary to the highest court in the European Union and imposing financial sanctions.

The United States in December expressed a similar concern about the Office for Sovereignty Defense, saying it “equips the Hungarian government with draconian tools that can be used to intimidate and punish those whose views are not shared by the ruling party.”

The US State Department said this authority could be used to subject Hungarian citizens, businesses and organizations “to intrusive investigations without judicial oversight, even if they have had no contact or support from Hungarians.” “a government or foreign entity”, adding: “This new law is incompatible with our shared values ​​of democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law. »

The legislation and the authority it establishes have also raised concerns among rights groups that have long been pressed by Hungarian authorities.

Dunja Mijatovic, a senior official at the Council of Europe, a major human rights organization, said in a statement in November that the plan to create the Office for Sovereignty Defense “presents a significant risk for human rights and should be abandoned. »

The European Commission has withheld more than 20 billion euros, or about $21.5 billion, from Hungary for various violations of EU rules relating to judicial independence, corruption and LGBTQ rights.

Asked if the commission would release any of those funds, Arianna Podesta, a spokeswoman, told reporters Wednesday, “We’re not there yet.”

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