Hungary to Face EU Legal Action Over LGBTQ Rights Next Week
(Bloomberg) -- The European Union will unveil as soon as next week legal proceedings against Hungary over its crackdown on LGBTQ rights as the bloc steps up its fight against slipping democratic standards.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is planning to send Hungary a so-called letter of formal notice, a last step before a suit at the EU’s Court of Justice, according to people familiar with the matter.
The EU has been battling for years against Hungary over numerous rule-of-law issues that have often, so far, led to little by way of concrete punishment. Hungary and Poland are the only two EU nations subject to a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of their EU voting rights.
The commission is also working on two other procedures, one related to Hungary’s asylum policy and the other over anti-LGBTQ activity in Poland, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. While the commission plans for all three letters to be ready next week, there is a small chance one or more could be delayed, another person said.
A commission spokesperson didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
Hungary is in the middle of several disputes with the EU over rule-of-law issues. The commission will likely delay approval of Hungary’s economic stimulus plan past a July 12 deadline and has said it would trigger a new mechanism later this year that will allow it to withhold budget distributions to countries that don’t adhere to democratic standards.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government stands to miss out on as much as 7.2 billion euros ($8.5 billion) of grants from the EU’s massive stimulus package.
The commission has filed several EU lawsuits against both Hungary and Poland, winning a few on the way, including one in December that accused Hungary of illegally detaining asylum seekers and moving them to a border area.
The latest clash with Hungary concerns a law the government says is aimed at protecting children against pedophilia, but which critics say discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation. The commission said in a letter sent to Budapest in June that it was taking legal steps, saying this planned law risks violating several provisions of EU rules.
Poland also faces legal action over its crackdown on LGBTQ rights by implementing so-called “LGBTQ-free zones.” The commission is set to send the government a letter of formal notice next week as well, said the people.
Towns and provinces across Poland have declared themselves “free of LGBTQ ideology” to prevent pride parades and other gay-friendly events from going ahead. As of the middle of last year, almost a third of municipalities in the Catholic country of 38 million people had adopted the declaration, often after lobbying from ultra-conservative groups.
The letters from the commission would formally initiate an EU infringement procedure, giving the nation the right to respond to the concerns and correct the infringement. The next step would be a court case, if the commission decides that the nation has failed to implement the required changes.
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