Infringement Procedures in the Time of COVID-19

In the last weeks, members of the European Parliament and observers in the legal and academic community have, explicitly or implicitly, criticised the European Commission and the Court of Justice for their handling of ongoing infringement procedures. Put simply, the two institutions have been criticised for moving the existing cases forward, despite the fact that certain countries (first Italy, then followed by almost all other Member States) are in lockdown and, consequently, their administrations are unable to effectively respond.

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Fighting Fake News or Fighting Inconvenient Truths?

Last week, the Hungarian Parliament amended the Criminal Code: it created the new crime of “obstructing epidemic prevention” and amended the already existing crime of scaremongering (rémhírterjesztés). The old version did have some shortcomings but the now adopted modification addresses none of the previously existing problems and makes the crime more susceptible to abuse by the authorities.

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Illiberal Consti­tutionalism at Work

Hungary’s and Poland’s responses to COVID-19 demonstrate how illiberal constitutionalism works in practice. In both countries, national constitutional or sub-constitutional emergency regimes provide the framework for government action. Different political and constitutional contexts, however, mean that their specific proceedings diverge.

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Die Unstrittigkeit des Zwecks

Wenn die Bedrohung, wie im Fall des Virus, als natürliche Gegebenheit auftritt, kommen leicht auch die Maßnahmen, um ihn zu beseitigen, als natürliche, d.h. fraglos vorgegebene Maßnahmen in Betracht. Eine Gefahr liegt hier darin, von einer Natürlichkeit des Zwecks auf die Natürlichkeit der Mittel zu schließen. Dass die Maßnahmen aber nicht natürlich gegeben, sondern politisch entschieden sind, muss demgegenüber im Blick bleiben.

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Pandemic as Constitutional Moment

Viktor Orbán has finally created for himself a constitutional moment, one where he can use the tools of constitutional democracy to access unrestrained powers to save the nation. This move should be a major concern for friends of constitutional democracy around the globe: in the midst of a global pandemic and a looming global economic crisis, PM Orbán may well be on route to kick start a genuine constitutional pandemic.

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Fighting Prison Overcrowding with Penal Populism – First Victim: the Rule of Law

On March 7th, a new Hungarian law came into force, allegedly intended to stop the “abuse” of compensation claims due to inhuman conditions in prison (“abuse law”). Even if this turns out to be yet another populist gimmick, the new legislation has important ramifications for the rule of law in Hungary because it sends the message to the citizens and the courts that the finality of judgements and court rulings are relative.

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The EU, Segregation and Rule of Law Resilience in Hungary

The legal and political consequences of the Hungarian government’s campaign against an appeal judgment which ordered the payment of compensation for school segregation can reverberate across the EU, because of the ubiquitous nature of segregation. Should the Hungarian government prevail, the case may negatively impact the integration of minorities in other Member States as well, particularly if the European Commission fails to increase its efforts to enforce the Racial Equality Directive.

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The Hungarian “Lex NGO” before the CJEU: Calling an Abuse of State Power by its Name

On 14 January 2020, Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona delivered his Opinion in Case C-78/18 on the restrictions incorporated into a 2017 Hungarian law on the financing of NGOs from abroad. He makes clear that Hungary’s “Lex NGO” not only restricts the free movement of capital but also violates several fundamental rights, and is therefore incompatible with EU law.

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