Collective Constitutional Learning in Europe: European Courts Talk to Hungary (Again)

von Renáta Uitz

On April 8, 2014, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice found that Hungary’s cutting short the terms of office of its old data protection ombudsman with its new Fundamental Law violated the Data Protection Directive (C-288/12, Commission v Hungary), while the European Court of Human Rights found that Hungary’s divesting of several previously registered churches from their church status under its new church law violated the Convention (Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and others v Hungary). The two judgments came two days after the Hungarian national elections in which the party of PM Viktor Orbán, FIDESz, won an overwhelming majority. While after the electoral victory PM Orbán emphasized that the renewed government will continue its work to preserve the achievements of the recent wave of constitution-making, these recent European judgments are clear reminders that there is still work to be done to bring the reinvented Hungarian constitutional and legal order in line with European minimum standards.

The European dimension of these recent developments is noteworthy, as the judgments arrive on the tails of the Commission’s communication on a new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law. This new Framework is the Commission’s reaction to the Parliament’s resolution of July 2013 on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary, calling for the establishment of a mechanism which ensures continuing compliance with the common values of the EU, as expressed in Article 2 TEU. In her initial response Commissioner Reding was far from enthusiastic about embracing the Parliament’s proposal, in September 2013, however, she outlined a formal notice procedure under Article 7 TEU (similar to the infringement procedures), while she mentioned that a farther reaching mechanism would take a treaty amendment ...

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