Hungarian minister blasts EU's 'false conclusions' on civil liberties

June 13, 2013 at 12:02 AM
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BUDAPEST, Hungary, June 13 (UPI) -- European Union critics are drawing "false conclusions" about the state of civil liberties and the rule of law in Hungary, the country's European affairs minister says.

Eniko Gyori told Hungarian lawmakers Monday a European Parliament report harshly criticizing what it calls an erosion of democracy in the country is misguided and political.

The so-called Tavares Report, written by Portuguese Green Party Member of Parliament Rui Tavares and now being considered by the EP's Civil Liberties committee, asserts Hungary is losing its status as a democracy because of a series of rapid changes to its Constitution in a little over a year.

That, in turn, has brought denunciations from Budapest, which says the criticisms are inaccurate and are coming from leftist politicians intent on politicking ahead of the May 2014 European elections.

The draft of the Tavares report contains a 21-point list of corrective measures its supporters want the Hungarian government to take to address the concerns.

"It is not acceptable to draw false conclusions from facts and for the European Parliament to adopt recommendations that extend beyond its mandate," Gyori told members of the Hungarian National Assembly's European Affairs committee.

"The report," she said, "contains many factual errors, and it is a political document since the EP is also a political body."

Members of the ruling nationalist Fidesz party and the extreme right Jobbik party also bashed the Tavares Report during Monday's hearing, the Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

Committee chairman Richard Horcsik of Fidesz said assertions in the report questioning whether Hungary is a democracy are "unacceptable" and said a new report with a more "realistic" picture of the country needed to be produced.

Jobbik's Zoltan Balczo, meanwhile, also scoffed at the idea democracy is under threat in Hungary, asserting Tavares report shows the EU is using "false accusations" in an bid to undermine Hungary's independence.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in April warned Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban parts of the Fourth Amendment to the country's constitution, or "fundamental law," approved by National Assembly in March, run afoul of EU standards on the rule of law by undercutting the separation of powers.

Since then, the commission and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe have been scrutinizing the amendment, which could lead to findings of infringement of the EU Treaty.

If unresolved, the dispute could ultimately result in the suspension of Hungary's voting rights under Article 7 of the treaty.

The amendment was passed under an Assembly supermajority held by Orban's Fidesz party. It reinstated regulations that Hungary's Constitutional Court had previously vetoed, triggering widespread concern about the erosion of checks and balances in the country.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi announced last week the government will retract a fundamental law amendment allowing cases to be transferred from one court to another, as well as a provision authorizing the state to levy taxes to compensate for fines incurred from the European Court of Justice, MTI reported.

Martonyi told the news service the government is retracting the court-transfer provision because "it served as an excuse to attack the Hungarian judiciary as a whole and question its independence."

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