Hungary faces fresh criticism over constitutional changes
The Parliament: “European parliament president Martin Schulz has joined the chorus of criticism over Hungary’s new constitutional changes.
His intervention comes after the Hungarian parliament adopted an amendment to the constitution on Monday despite “serious doubts” that it may weaken democratic standards in the country.
The changes end the Hungarian constitutional court’s power to review substantive changes to the constitution.
Speaking in Strasbourg, Schulz said he had asked Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán to seek an opinion on the amendment from the Venice commission of the council of Europe before the Hungarian parliament voted on it.
“I am disappointed that this had not happened,” said Schulz.
The German deputy went on, “I am not the only one to be worried by this constitutional change and its possible negative impact on the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights.
“I now expect a detailed analysis on the issue from the council of Europe and the commission.
“Every member state must adhere to European laws and standards. This is what Orbán promised to parliament last year. The same promise was made by Orbán in a letter he sent to me on Friday.”
Yet more condemnation came from commission president José Manuel Barroso who said it was “unfortunate” that experts from the council of Europe and the commission did not have the opportunity to “discuss and clarify in detail” the content of the amendments before their adoption.
He said, “These amendments raise concerns with respect to the principle of the rule of law, EU law and council of Europe standards.”
He said the council of Europe and commission would now make a detailed assessment of the amendments.
Barroso said Orbán had given the “full commitment” of the Hungarian government and parliament to ” European norms and values”.
“In this sense, we expect that the Hungarian authorities will engage in bilateral contacts with the European institutions in order to address any concerns raised as to the compatibility of these amendments with European principles and EU law,” Barroso added…”
Hungary: ‘A blow to the heart of the rule of law’
Presseurop: “In reforming the constitution once again, the government of Viktor Orbán has taken another step to weaken democracy in Hungary – against a powerless EU, laments the European press.
Supported by the two-thirds majority enjoyed by his party, Fidesz, in the Hungarian parliament, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pushed through on March 11 a fourth amendment to the constitution, which had been drafted in 2011.
The provisions adopted on March 11, notes the Financial Times, put limits on the powers of Hungary’s constitutional court and restore some elements of a controversial fundamental law adopted in January 2012 that had since been dropped under European pressure.
In Munich, the Süddeutsche Zeitung condemns a “blow to the heart of the rule of law” by the Hungarian government. The newspaper believes that – Populist Viktor Orbán is juggling several roles. His favourite is that of saviour of the nation who has freed Hungary from communism, restored the old values and is defending the glory of Hungary.[…] At the beginning of his term he announced a second revolution, and it now seems that, in the wake of this constitutional reform, the Hungarian government will no longer be the same […] After reminders from Brussels, Orbán is playing his second favourite role – that of the good democrat and avowed European, who understands the worries of his partners at these minor changes in his country. He then moves on to prepare the next blow, the one taking aim at the heart of the rule of law: the independence of the judiciary. The greatest danger to the nation comes from its greatest admirer.
Also on the same topic:
Merkel criticizes Hungarian constitutional changes, economic unpredictability : http://www.politics.hu/20130313/merkel-criticizes-hungarian-constitutional-changes-economic-unpredictablity/
Orbán to skip March 15th festivities in Budapest as major anti-government rally planned: http://www.politics.hu/20130312/orban-to-skip-march-15th-festivities-in-budapest-as-major-anti-government-rally-planned/
Watchdog group urges EU action on Hungary’s “contempt for the rule of law” : http://www.politics.hu/20130312/watchdog-group-urges-eu-action-on-hungarys-contempt-for-the-rule-of-law/
Orbán: “Irreversible” constitutional changes will solidify Parliament’s supremacy : http://www.politics.hu/20130312/orban-irreversible-constitutional-changes-will-solidify-parliaments-supremacy/
Top EU politicians condemn Hungary’s decision to amend the Constitution : http://www.politics.hu/20130312/top-eu-politicians-condemn-hungarys-decision-to-amend-the-constitution/
Academics line up to defend EU data protection law
Euobserver: “BRUSSELS – Leading academics across Europe are signing an online petition to support the European Commission’s draft data protection regulation in protest at industry lobbying to weaken it.
“They decided they had to do something against EU lobbying on the draft regulation,” said Anne Grauenhorst, who helps manage the site for the Centre for Advanced Security Research Darmstadt (Cased), on Monday (11 March).
The Data Protection in Europe’ site was launched in February by five German academics and an Austrian colleague.
To date, over 80 professors from computer science, law, economics and business administration disciplines have joined.
The academics are spread among 19 member states while others have signed on from Switzerland and Norway. More are joining.
“If you had asked me last week, if we would have 80, I would have told you that certainly I would have liked it but I wouldn’t have made any promises,” Dr Kai Rannenberg, professor at Goethe-University in Frankfurt/Main and one of the initiators of the project told EUobserver.
Rannenberg said the intensity of lobbying in Brussels to weaken the regulation by the industry prompted them to create the site.
“The fact that so many came [to sign the position] actually shows that the situation is serious,” noted Rannenberg.
The commission’s draft updates an 18-year old directive that aims to bring the law in line with the latest technologies.
The right to be forgotten and fines for organisations that mishandle personal data are among the novelties some experts believe will ensure greater privacy rights for individuals.
The protection of personal data is also guaranteed under the charter of fundamental rights…”
The EU must publicly oppose US drone killings or risk ‘disaster’
Public Service Europe: “If the EU is to uphold the integrity of the democratic principles and international law that it has been so prevalent in shaping, Europe must demand that America desists from illegal drone killings, says MEP
Along with two MEPs from other political groups, I have condemned the United States’ drone-launched targeted killing programme under which the Central Intelligence Agency and the American military hunt and kill individuals anywhere in the world that they suspect of links to terrorism. We are deeply concerned about the legal basis as well as the moral, ethical and human rights implications of these ‘extra-judicial’ assassinations. They do not respect due process or the rule of law.
In addressing terrorism through military means, rather than through criminal justice procedures as Europe does, the United States administration gives itself permission to act outside the constraints of both domestic US and international law. Its pretext – which has prevailed for over a decade – is that a state of war exists between the US and al-Qaida even outside the theatre of armed conflict in Afghanistan.
But these drone killings operate in disregard of the long-established international legal framework about when it is lawful to kill people, and indeed represent an attempt to drive a coach and horses through traditional norms of international law. By treating terrorist suspects as enemy combatants the US has long abdicated the need to pursue a normal law enforcement strategy to punish individuals for their suspected crimes by bringing them before a court.
Given the wide-scale condemnation of former US president George W. Bush’s extraordinary rendition and torture programme, which was part of the post 9/11 ‘war on terror’, it is both incredible and frightening that the current American President Barack Obama is making renewed reckless attempts to rewrite the international legal code. This sets an extremely dangerous precedent – which al Qaida might follow – and risks a highly destabilising effect on international relations.
Despite adopting a war paradigm with regard to terrorism, the US is not even respecting the humanitarian imperatives of the law of war with its concern for innocent civilian bystanders. There are a growing number of reports that hundreds of civilians are being killed in the framework of the targeted killing programme. The US, must therefore urgently and transparently justify the legal basis for these drone attacks which are targeting alleged militants and yet also destroying as ‘collateral damage’ both innocent human beings and our common legal heritage…”
FIGHT AGAINST DISCRIMINATION
Racism, xenophobia, hate crime common concern for EU
New Europe: “Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes represent a common concern for the whole European Union (EU) and no member state has a clean record when it comes to them, Vice-President of the EU Commission Viviane Reding said today.
Reding took part in a European Parliament debate devoted to strengthening the fight against hate crime, racism and xenophobia.
The EU justice commissioner cited a recent study by the Union’s Fundamental rights’ agency (FRA) which found that hate crime is a more serious problem in Europe than often recorded. In particular, the report said that hate crimes are “a daily reality” throughout the EU, which not only “harm the victim, they are generally prejudicial to fundamental rights, namely to human dignity and with respect to non-discrimination”.
Reding also emphasised that many of the hate crimes remain unreported and so not prosecuted, while those who commit them-unpunished. In her opinion, this was making the problem even bigger than one could see…”
Gender equality: Media and the image of women
Human Rights Europe: “A conference in Strasbourg next month will examine the media’s sometimes troubled portrayal of women.
The Gender Equality Commission (GEC) will meet in Strasbourg from 10 – 12 April, to consider proposals for fighting gender stereotypes in the media. Participants will also discuss the challenges posed by new media, its impact on gender equality and how it can be used as a “potential agent for positive change.”
A ‘concept paper’ report to the GEC states: “The visibility given to women in mass media, whether in text, audio, or audio-visual form is more often than not based on stereotypical portrayals of what is feminine and masculine. Through the acceptance and imitation of these so-called “role models”, harmful gender stereotypes are perpetuated affecting every aspect of our lives.
“Gender stereotyping presents a serious obstacle in the process of achieving real gender equality and feeds into gender discrimination, which not only limits the fulfilment of the full potential of women, but is also one of the root causes of violence against women and girls.
“Despite progress achieved, the media continue to reproduce stereotypes of women, a fact that is often aggravated by a lack of women in leadership positions within the media industry. The advent of new technologies such as the internet or social networks has in no way changed this. Although new media technologies can potentially serve as a tool to empower women, they pose new challenges that have not been sufficiently tackled…”