Rule of law has no set of objective criteria and is increasingly used by the European Union to rein in member states, Hungarian justice minister Judit Varga wrote in an article on Euronews.
In her piece, she emphasized that the European Commission wants to tie rule of law matters to funding, which could turn the issue into a way to punish those who challenge the Commission. Vargas acknowledges as much, referencing the words of Prime Minister Orbán, who said the issue could be used “as a political weapon”.
The European Commission is set to take action on the matter of rule of law, with Vargas writing, “This week, the Council of the EU will meet to evaluate its annual Rule of Law Dialogue, and Belgium and Germany have proposed a Periodic Peer Review Mechanism for rule of law matters.”
In particular, Hungary is one of the intended targets for the Commission’s actions related to rule of law matters. Vargas writes:
The Commission announced the introduction of a Rule of Law Review Cycle to monitor developments in Member States, and the Commission and the Parliament have initiated procedures under Article 7 against certain Member States. Hungary is one of them.
With this action from the EU on the horizon, Varga compiled a short compendium of questions and her answers about the rule of law, telling Euronews:
Is rule of law a set of universally applicable objective criteria? No. It lacks well-defined rules and remains the subject of much debate internationally and among national constitutional bodies and academia. Concern for the rule of law should pay greater respect to the specifics of Member States and not try to impose an artificial, one-size-fits-all framework.
Does the EU have general competence in rule of law matters? No, in fact the plan by the outgoing Commission to introduce a regular rule of law review runs completely contrary to the Treaties. Primary responsibility rests with Member States and national institutions. Article 4 of the Treaty specifically says that the Union shall respect the national identities of the Member States, inherent in their constitutional structures.
Is the debate actually about issues related to rule of law? Not really. A Member State can have a strict migration policy and still hold fast to the rule of law. Restoring the natural balance between individual liberty and community interests does not violate the former. We have differences in: how we relate to the Christian roots of Europe, on the role of nations and national cultures; how we see the nature and mission of families in our societies; and in our approaches to migration. But to claim that a Member State no longer belongs to the community of values at the heart of the EU simply because it holds different positions on issues like this would create a dangerous precedent and undermine the very foundations of European integration.
Varga also shared Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s position, with the Hugnarian leader recently saying, “I wouldn’t recommend we reach a situation in Europe when a prime minister or any other official visits another country to scold them about the rule of law, because that can be conducive to many things but certainly not to European unity.”
Title image: Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga (source: MTI)