EU not prepared to use ‘nuclear option’ against Hungary – yet

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders. (MTI/EPA/Roland WIttek)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The European Commission will not invoke the so-called “nuclear option” under Article 7 against Hungary for breaches of fundamental rights until there is a strong majority among member states on the issue, said Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders on Monday.

The European Parliament, in a resolution voted on earlier this month, called for Article 7 to “go into second gear” and establish a “serious and persistent breach” of fundamental rights in Hungary. However, this new step requires a written proposal from the European Commission or a third of member states, according to Hungarian news outlet Mandiner.

“There is currently no decision in the commission to trigger the next step under Article 7,” Reynders said after a meeting of European affairs ministers in Brussels. “The reason for this is very simple,” he added, as there is a lack of consensus within the European Council on Hungary.

If triggered, the option could lead to the suspension of Hungary’s membership rights, including voting rights.

“There is nothing worse than when someone puts forward a proposal only to have it rejected,” Reynders told journalists. “If there is a clear signal in the Council about the possible majority or qualified majority, or at the end, maybe not so far, a unanimity to take a decision, of course, the Commission will follow the position of member states,” he added.

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Among the member states opposed to Article 7 measures against Hungary is Slovakia, whose Prime Minister Robert Fico, an ally of Orbán, said he would veto such a measure. Article 7 requires unanimous support from all nations, so even one dissenting member could scuttle the so-called nuclear option.

The announcement from Reynders comes after an explosive report on Sunday from the Financial Times regarding a leaked document from the Council of the EU.

The document outlines secret sabotage plans to target Hungary’s economy if it refuses to sign off on €50 billion in aid for Ukraine, including efforts to attack Hungary’s currency, cut off foreign funding, and help make Hungary’s debt levels unserviceable. The Financial Times describes it as the first time such a plan has ever been put forward by the EU against one of its member states.

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