“It’s really exceptional that this legislation has gone this far,” says Sinden, who also specializes as an equal-treatment lawyer. She says the law Orban signed this week falls into a certain pattern. “We see that in more Central and Eastern European countries there is a conservative trend, where gender equality is under pressure.”
So Hungary is not alone in the discussion. Orbán is supported by Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria as well as Poland.
What else can Brussels do?
If the Commission wanted to, it could cut annual support for Hungary by about six billion euros. Since January 1, this is legally possible if the government of a member state does not comply with European rules of the rule of law.
“But Poland and Hungary have started a lawsuit in court to remove this legal instrument,” Sinden said. However, Brussels can already use it. After all, as long as the judge does not declare it illegal, the procedure is valid, the professor explains.
In the end, all kinds of interests play a role, which means that so far at least, according to Sterk, Brussels has been relatively lenient with Hungary. For example, a country can use its veto to block the EU budget or other major decisions.
“So it’s hard to say whether this case is a prelude to a tougher stance against Hungary, or just an emotional explosion on the stage.”
How about an Article 7 procedure?
Hungary is already on trial for denying the European Council the right to vote. This Article 7 Procedure It is considered the most severe punishment possible. Poland and Hungary are the first member states launched against it.
But three years after a large majority in the European Parliament voted for it, nothing concrete has come of it.
This is because it only takes one member state to block these severe sanctions. So Poland can save Hungary, or vice versa, and it has happened so far. “So Brussels finds it difficult to practice these teeth, even if they want to,” Sinden says.
Can Hungary be expelled from the European Union if necessary?
No, this is pretty much impossible. There is no treaty that allows this. If a country wants it themselves, it is possible: look at Brexit. But Hungary has little to gain from voluntarily leaving the European Union.
In theory, a treaty could be drafted to expel a country from the European Union. However, all other Member States must unanimously agree to this. As long as, say, Poland or another EU country continues to support Orban, this is not possible. Incidentally, Ruti also opposes importing such an article, he said this week.