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European Parliament to take up rule of law issue right after ECJ ruling on Feb. 16

picture of István Ujhelyi

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is expected to rule on the morning of February 16 on a lawsuit brought by the Hungarian and Polish governments over EU legislation on the rule of law in Member States. Shortly after this ruling next Wednesday, the topic of the rule of law mechanism will be on the agenda of the European Parliament’s plenary session, EUrologus has learned.

The rule of law mechanism allows the EU to suspend, withdraw, or otherwise reduce any funds or aid due to the Member State if the EU financial interests are endangered in a given country due to a breach of democratic standards, for as long the infringing situation persists. Although the mechanism has yet not been triggered, Hungary and Poland are seeking a declaration by the Luxembourg-based court that the legislation is contrary to EU law.

The news of the European Parliament’s plans was confirmed by Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi (pictured), who himself supported putting the issue on the agenda.

Viktor Orbán unsuccessfully tried to prevent the rule of law mechanism from being triggered through a lying bluff. He won some time, but not much in the way of impunity.

-Ujhelyi said.

He added that the European Commission was first awaiting how the ECJ would rule in the case, but “following that, it cannot give a minute’s delay to those contravening EU values”. The opposition politician believes it is in Hungary’s interest to be able to access the funds it is due as soon as possible, but trust and the rule of law must be restored first.

For the time being, the biggest obstacle to this remains the Orban regime.

-stated the MSZP politician.

A final decision on the agenda will be made within a day or two, but since a majority of parliamentary parties supports the proposal, no significant opposition to it is expected. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is also expected to be present to discuss the issue. It was also agreed that the European Parliament would adopt a resolution on the topic at its next plenary session in March.

The European Commission has already sent a so-called administrative letter to the Hungarian and Polish governments, which can be considered a prelude to the actual rule of law procedure. But actually launching the procedure has been put on hold pending the judgment by the ECJ, as the Member States expect its wording to be included in the manual governing the process.

As a result of the rule of law mechanism, the Member State threatening the EU’s financial interests can have its funds withdrawn after 6-8 months.

In December, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice ruled that the Hungarian and Polish motions should be dismissed as unfounded, and that the legislation on the rule of law procedure complied with EU law and could be applied as needed.

[HVG]

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