The Council of Europe and legislative reform in Hungary: Timeline

25 January 2011
24 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) sign a motion expressing serious concern with respect to recent developments concerning democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Hungary.

Two rapporteurs are appointed by the PACE Monitoring Committee to investigate whether the Assembly should open a formal monitoring procedure. They subsequently visit Hungary in July 2011 and February 2012.

25 February 2011
Following a visit to Budapest, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, publishes an opinion on Hungary’s new media legislation in the light of Council of Europe standards.

In a public statement, the Commissioner stresses that Hungarian media must be able to perform their role as watchdog in a pluralistic democratic society, and urges Hungary to abide by its commitments to the Council of Europe.

28 March 2011
In response to a request from Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics, the Venice Commission publishes an opinion on three specific legal questions related to the adoption of the new Hungarian constitution.

Among other things, the Venice Commission criticises the adoption process as not allowing enough time for a thorough debate, fully involving both the opposition and Hungarian civil society.

20 June 2011
The Venice Commission adopts an opinion on the content of the newly-adopted constitution, following a request from the PACE Monitoring Committee.

The opinion highlights a number of issues which could require further attention in the areas of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

16 December 2011
Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg sends a letter to the Hungarian Foreign Minister, János Martonyi, expressing concerns over the new law on religious freedom, due to enter into force on 1 January 2012.

11 January 2012
In a further letter, the Secretary General refers to concerns about recent developments in Hungary and offers Council of Europe expertise on the judiciary, religious freedom and elections to parliament, as well as media freedom.

The European Court of Human Rights also publishes a press release calling for special measures following the receipt of almost 8,000 applications against Hungary concerning the reform of pension rules for former police officers.

12 January 2012
Referring to the reply from Foreign Minister Martonyi to his letter of 16 December, Commissioner Hammarberg publishes a statement expressing fears that the legislative changes in Hungary threaten democracy and human rights.

20 January 2012
Foreign Minister Martonyi replies to the Secretary General saying that Hungary will indeed request the opinion of the Venice Commission on new laws on the judiciary, religious freedom and elections to parliament.

26 January 2012
The PACE Monitoring Committee asks the Venice Commission for five further opinions on Hungary – concerning freedom of information, the constitutional court, the prosecution, nationalities and family protection.

13 March 2012
The PACE Monitoring Committee asks the Venice Commission to give another opinion on the transitional provisions for the new constitution, as adopted by the Hungarian parliament on 31 December 2011.

19 March 2012
The Venice Commission publishes opinions on new laws relating to the independence of the judiciary and religious freedom in Hungary. Both identify some potential areas of incompatibility with Council of Europe standards.

21 March 2012
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland meets Hungarian Prime Minister Viktór Orban, Foreign Minister Martonyi and Deputy Prime Minister Navracsics in Budapest to discuss the Venice Commission opinions and the Council of Europe’s own expert review of the new Hungarian media laws.

June 2012
Expected publication of seven further opinions from the Venice Commission.

Late 2012
PACE to decide whether to launch formal monitoring procedure against Hungary.