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Long-standing rule of law and democracy issues in Hungary ‘remain largely unaddressed’, says PACE committee

Long-standing issues pertaining to the rule of law and democracy in Hungary “remain largely unaddressed by the authorities”, PACE’s Monitoring Committee has said in its latest assessment of the country’s honouring of its Council of Europe membership obligations. In light of this, the committee has proposed that the Assembly “use the means at its disposal to closely follow developments with regard to the functioning of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Hungary”.

Approving a report by George Papandreou (Greece, SOC) and Eerik-Niiles Kross (Estonia, ALDE) during a meeting in Paris, the committee said Hungary was in a unique situation among Council of Europe member States and contemporary democracies in that the ruling coalition enjoyed, nearly continuously, a two-thirds parliamentary majority since 2010, and had therefore been able to pass a number of constitutional changes and cardinal laws.

However the wide use of cardinal laws “undermines the ability of the parliament to adapt to new conditions and face new challenges,” the committee said, referring to the opinions of the Venice Commission, and meant that safeguards foreseen in the Constitution became inefficient. “This situation severely restricts political pluralism - which is the hallmark of a democratic system,” the parliamentarians said. The committee also concluded that the current electoral framework does not ensure a level playing field conducive to fair elections.

"It is incumbent on the authorities enjoying a two-thirds majority to ensure that the principles governing the proper functioning of democratic institutions are respected and safeguarded in good faith, including through effective checks and balances, meaningful dialogue with the opposition and co-operation with civil society,” they added.

The committee also expressed concern at the country’s use of a “special legal order” since 2020, allowing the triggering of a “state of danger”. Such orders must be “strictly necessary, proportionate and must be limited in time,” the committee recalled.

The committee commended the people of Hungary for “the great solidarity shown in the handling of the mass arrival of refugees from Ukraine since February 2022” and made a number of recommendations as regards elections, the judiciary and the media.

The full report is due to be debated at the Assembly's next plenary session.