Budapest meets Commission deadlines
By Manon Malhère | Monday 02 April 2012
The Hungarian government has responded to two statements of reasoned opinion from the European Commission on the age of retirement for judges and the independence of the Hungarian national data protection authority, as well as an administrative letter on the independence of the country’s judicial system a week before the stated deadlines. Budapest also responded to a second letter on the independence of its central bank a day before the deadline of 31 March. The two reasoned opinions and the two letters were sent to Budapest on 7 March (see
“It is in Hungary’s best interests to clarify all these problems,” commented Hungarian Ambassador Péter Györkös. The Hungarian government hopes that all obstacles standing in the way of negotiations with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund on a future credit line will be removed, he said in a press release.
As for when these negotiations will begin, this is “up to the other party,” Györkös recently told
Europolitics in an interview published just hours before Budapest sent its responses (4397). This is an eminently political question; according to the Commission, “the most important factor is of course to reassure us about the central bank, and there are a range of issues connected to this,” said a Commission spokesman, adding that “We hope that these responses will now open the way for negotiations to begin”.
The Commission must now establish whether or not Budapest’s replies are sufficiently detailed and constructive to allow the Commsision to open negotiations.
Concerning the highly important question of the central bank, Hungary has set out new commitments on the procedure that Budapest intends to follow for consulting the European Central Bank in a systematic manner and in due course on all proposed legislation touching on its field of competence, but also on the government’s public comments on decisions taken by the Hungarian central bank - a practice that has been strongly criticised by the Commission.
On the other hand, the government is sticking to its position on the wage ceiling for the governor of the central bank. While the Commission says this system could be used to pressurise the governor, Budapest insists that this is part of a general regime, which is applicable to all public authorities.
Regarding the reasoned opinion on the data protection authority, and more specifically on the anticipated end of the commissioner’s mandate, this issue could certainly end up being brought before the EU Court of Justice. The Hungarian government is clear on this “in the sense that the new law introduces a new institution, there is no anticipation of the mandate,” said a European source. For the Commission, this is a violation of its independence. As for the independence of the authority, Budapest submitted proposed amendments in response to the Commission’s letter, which the Commission appears to have accepted. These were due to be adopted by the Hungarian parliament on 2 April.
On the reasoned opinion on the age of retirement for judges, prosecutors and notaries (from 70 to 62 years) – a question which has caused particular concern for the Commission, which says this measure is discriminatory – Budapest has proposed applying a retirement age of 62 to all state employees in the public sector. All such employees would then be able to submit an individual request to postpone their retirement until the age of 70.
Finally, regarding the Commission’s letter on the independence of the judicial system, Budapest has submitted its proposed amendments, which are largely in line with the recent opinion given by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission on this matter. n