Dutch Cabinet’s position on constitutional developments in Hungary

The Netherlands Foreign Minister Frans Timmerman presented a letter to the House of Representatives of the Netherlands on 16 August 2013 on the topic of Hungary’s constitutional reforms. I’ve translated the position of the Netherlands on the issue, which constitutes only part of the letter. The other two sections talk about the context within which the developments were unfolding, and continue to unfold and the international criticism against the policies of the Hungarian government.

The [Dutch] cabinet shares the broad international concern about the constitutional developments in Hungary. From the large political and parliamentary mandate of the Fidesz, follows an equally large societal responsibility to ensure that legislative processes are transparent, with care, and inclusive – especially when it concerns such fundamental legislation as the constitution and cardinal laws. The international criticisms on the legislative processes are well-known to the Hungarian government, and European member states regularly discussed their worries with Hungary. Also the Netherlands has raised the issue, both through the prime minister [Rutte] to his Hungarian counterpart as well as the Foreign Minister to his counterpart.

Therefore, it is good that the European Commission and the Council of Europe keep close track of the developments concerning the legal system in Hungary. The merits of the approach of the European Commission and the Venice Commission lies in their independent and technical judgement of the situation in Hungary (from the point of view of the European treaties and the values of the Council of Europe) – and also the Hungarian willingness to go into dialogue with them, and to change the laws, where necessary. This is what the Netherlands expects Hungary to do.

As of yet, the situation in Hungary has not yet reached the point where the cabinet would envision introducing sanctions. For sanctions to be imposed, to would have to be clearly  determined that Hungary no longer satisfies the basic values of the European Union or, respectively, the Council of Europe. The cabinet doesn’t believe this point has been reached. The cabinet attaches much weight to the reports of the EU and the Council of Europe. Developing mechanisms that are specifically aimed at individual member states, as Tavares’ “Article 2-Trialogue” proposal for Hungary, is not a solution, the cabinet believes. The Netherlands instead advocates an addition mechanism for fundamental values which should be equally applicable to all member states, would there be the need. Particularly in a European community of values, we must be able to raise the issue of complying with these values. The cabinet will continue to do so herself – concerning Hungary and across the rest of Europe.

I do not hold responsibility for any wrongful conclusions of the letter wish may occur due to my interpretation of the Dutch text.

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