HUNGARY: NGOs – Hungary’s judicial package reform failed to address EU requirements

Extract from article by Charles Szumski, published on Euractiv on 12/05/2023 – accessible here.

Hungary has failed to adequately address the EU’s concerns around the judicial package, which risks billions of Euros in much-awaited EU funds, several NGOs, including Amnesty International Hungary, said.

The Hungarian parliament has voted in favour of a bill initially intended to amend a part of the judicial reform necessary for Hungary to unlock its EU funds from the recovery plan. However, NGOs such as Amnesty International Hungary and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee said that even if the past bill includes positive elements, it fails to adequately address the rule of law problems identified by the EU.

The shortcomings in the Hungarian judicial system have been at the heart of a dispute between Brussels and Budapest over the rule of law that blocks €22 billion in cohesion funds for Hungary. Although the Hungarian budget cannot receive part of this amount for other reasons, an agreement on the rule of law issue could free up around €13 billion.

The organisations say that the revised proposal, passed in parliament with 151 votes in favour and 23 abstentions, has some positive points but does not go far enough.

While the new bill grants more effective control powers to the National Judicial Council, the self-governing body of judges, and strengthens its powers of appeal, it still needs to address the possibility of Hungarian judges appealing to the EU Court of Justice on sensitive issues.