EU warns Hungary on rule of law and migrant quotas

By bne IntelliNews April 13, 2017

The EU warned Hungary on April 12 that it may face legal action over Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s underminig of democracy and the rule of law.

The EU’s left-liberal wing has long been critical of Orban, but the recent effort to push Central European University out of Hungary has brought condemnation from members of his own conservative bloc, the European Peoples Party. Orban’s self-proclaimed “illiberal” model is also influencing other countries in the bloc, most notably Poland. 

However, as with an ongoing rule of law challenge to Warsaw, few expect the EU to be able to move swiftly and decisively against Hungary. Orban, meanwhile, will likely welcome what he will present to the domestic audience as an intrusion by Brussels into a matter of national sovereignty.

"Taken cumulatively, the overall situation in Hungary is a cause of concern," First Vice President Frans Timmermans said after the regular weekly meeting of European Commissioners.

Timmermans promised dialogue with Hungarian officials, and Hungary may become the second country after Poland to have the EU’s “rule of law” legal mechanism procedure initiated against it. Orban has spent the year or more of that process promising to veto any effort to move towards placing sanctions on Warsaw.

The effort to get member states to accept migrant quotas is another notable failure by Brussels, despite persistent suggestions that the issue should be linked to EU funding levels.

“Now is the time for our member states to deliver on their commitments and to intensify their efforts," the commission said in a statement on April 12, "I call on those countries that have not yet joined this common effort to do so.”

The Hungarian government replied in statement that “Brussels is launching attacks against Hungary due to immigration. They want to force the mandatory quotas upon us and to eliminate the Hungarian border closure.”

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