Photo: European Union
Today, EU justice ministers will meet virtually to discuss measures taken by member states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the bloc’s justice system.
The ministers are expected to focus on an anti-coronavirus bill recently adopted by Hungary’s National Assembly, which will extend sweeping powers to President Viktor Orban and impose jail sentences for those spreading false information. Due to widespread concern that the bill could allow Orban’s increasingly authoritarian government to breach the rule of law by restricting independent media outlets, the European Commission has vowed to monitor the implementation of the new legislation.
In the past, the EC has responded to rule of law violations by invoking Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, in an attempt to suspend the voting rights of Poland (2017) and Hungary (2018). However, a Polish-Hungarian alliance thwarted the necessary unanimous votes from passing in the EC, and the same dynamic would almost certainly prevent a similar move against Hungary today.
Today’s meeting is unlikely to recommend such action immediately, as Hungary’s bill only went into effect this week. If anything, expect the ministers—already preoccupied with combatting COVID-19—to support the Commission’s supervision campaign for now and possibly reach a more conclusive recommendation later in the year.
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William analyses global economic and political events for the Current Developments Team, focusing his research on Europe and the Middle East. He contributes regularly to the Daily Brief