The situation in Hungary, following Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's remarks on the possibility of reinstating the death penalty there and the government’s public “consultation” on immigration, were debated by MEPs, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Latvian State Secretary for European Affairs Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica for the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers and Mr Orbán himself on Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking for the Council Presidency, Latvian State Secretary for European Affairs Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica reiterated that "the European Union is not just an economic and political union", but also a "union of shared fundamental values". She welcomed Parliament’s concern for the "preservation of democratic values", but as the Council had not discussed the situation in Hungary, she was “not in a position to comment", she said.
Commission Vice-President for fundamental rights Frans Timmermans pointed out that reinstating the death penalty would be contrary to EU fundamental values and could trigger EU Treaty Article 7, which foresees the possibility of depriving a member state of its voting rights in the Council.
However, Hungary does not have "concrete plans" to reinstate the death penalty, he said, adding that if it were to take steps to do so, then the Commission “would not hesitate to act”.
As to the public consultation on migration, "framing it in the context of terrorism is malicious and wrong" and will feed prejudice, Mr Timmermans said.
Speaking for the EFDD group, Laura Ferrara, called the public consultation in Hungary “shocking, because it feeds prejudice against migrants”. She also advocated monitoring respect for fundamental rights in EU countries not only before, but also after, they join the EU.
"We Hungarians like to speak frankly", said Mr Orbán. "Therefore we say that we want Europe to stay European, and we would like to preserve Hungary for Hungarians". He added that he found the Commission’s proposals "absurd, almost crazy". On the death penalty, Mr Orbán stressed that we "must not shy away from discussing a problem" and that "Hungary stands by the freedom of speech".