Schmitten in the USA

We will at some point surface from the current public health crisis. How and when and what the new normal will look like, no one knows. But we do know that autocrats around the world are using the epidemic as a pretext to gather even more power unto themselves. In this light, the fact that a Harvard Law Professor has published an article at this time with this kind of viral load in the pages of a respectable journal is perhaps more scary than the virus itself.

Continue Reading →

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.

Continue Reading →

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.

Continue Reading →

When Journalists Weaken Democracy or How to Better Communicate the Rule of Law

Discussing years of controversies between Polish lawyers and the ruling Law and Justice party, the law professor Marcin Matczak concluded: “We won the legal discussions, but we lost the public debate.” Despite manifest violations of the law, Poland’s ruling party did not lose votes in recent parliamentary elections. In Hungary the situation seems to have been even worse. The public debate was not lost, it hardly took place. That’s a problem.

Continue Reading →

Systemic Error – On Hungary’s Extension of European Voting Rights to Non-Resident Citizens

Last December, the Hungarian legislator adopted a rule that allows non-EU-resident Hungarian citizens to vote at the European Parliament elections. This rule is in line with a 2018 Council decision. Implementation done, EU conformity secured, nothing to see here. Or is there?

Continue Reading →

Stop Soros Law Left on the Books – The Return of the “Red Tail”?

On 28 February, Hungary’s Constitutional Court found the so-called Stop Soros legislative package constitutional. Shocking as it may seem at first glance, this case reminds us how difficult it is to evaluate the judgments of a constitutional court operating in an illiberal political regime.

Continue Reading →

A Game of Values: Particular National Identities Awaken in Europe

The EU’s legitimacy is thin and this weakness is reflected in its impotence in the face of the drift towards authoritarianism in Central and Eastern Europe. It remains to be seen whether such an authoritarian turn as the Hungarian can happen in old democracies and if their institutions are strong enough to limit the effects of global processes which are shaping the national identities of societies and the impact of Member States on the shared EU framework.

Continue Reading →

Systemic Threat to the Rule of Law in Poland: What should the Commission do next?

Considering the overwhelming evidence of a deliberate governmental strategy of systematically undermining all checks and balances in Poland as well the uncooperative behaviour of Polish authorities, the Commission has been left with no other choice but to trigger the Article 7 mechanism. Even if there is no realistic chance of seeing the Council adopting sanctions against Poland, this step would finally oblige national governments, meeting in the Council, to face up to their own responsibilities.

Continue Reading →