The elections in Hungary resulted in a two thirds majority for the ruling party led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Engagement with all EU Member States is a key imperative for Ireland in advancing and protecting our interests in the EU. In that context, we raise not only issues of shared interest with our partners but also issues of concern.
The Irish Government will continue to work with Prime Minister Orban and his administration to ensure that the European Union is equipped for the collective challenges we face, not least in addressing the issues of greatest concerns to our citizens, including Brexit, the Union’s future finances and EMU.
Respect for the fundamental values on which the European Union is founded and which are set out in the Treaty, including respect for the rule of law and freedom of expression, are crucial underpinnings for all the EU Member States and this is a message we also convey.
There are concerns over the civic space available for NGOs to continue to operate in Hungary. The overall media environment in Hungary has also deteriorated further in recent weeks with the closure of a major independent newspaper.
The European Commission is, in the first instance, charged with ensuring the application of the treaties and is responsible for promoting the general interest of the Union.
Last December, the Commission announced that it was referring Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union in relation to inter alia, the laws on higher education (the “Lex CEU”) and on NGOs adopted in 2017. In the case of these two issues, Hungary is considered to have failed to address EU concerns about these laws or amend the legislation to bring it in line with EU standards. These cases are likely to be heard by the Court later this year.
Notwithstanding this, it is important that Hungary and the European Commission will engage on these issues and that, ultimately, a resolution may be achieved, if possible, without the need for formal Court direction.