The forcibly retired judges won in Luxembourg, but did they?

As many critics of the Hungarian government feared or hoped–depending on the individual’s temperament–the European Court of Judges ruled against the Orbán government’s attempt to make a clean sweep of the Hungarian judicial system. By getting rid of hundreds of judges who had passed their sixty-second birthday, although they still had eight years to go until their mandatory retirement at the age of seventy, the government could “refresh” the ranks of judges with younger judges of its own picking.

After all, the Orbán government managed to get rid of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and replace him with a man whom it deemed less troublesome than András Baka, who had been nominated by former President László Sólyom. The government also completely reorganized the whole judicial system, at whose apex it placed Tünde Handó, a close friend of the Orbán family and the wife of one of the founders of Fidesz. So, through these new appointees the government currently has a certain amount of control over the the judiciary, especially if they find the “right men and women” to rule according to the government’s taste.

This radical firing of judges seemed problematic from day one, and the judges affected did not take this latest assault on themselves lying down. After all, they know the law. Now that only the ombudsman can petition the Constitutional Court, they barraged Máté Szabó to turn the case over to the Constitutional Court. Meanwhile others began suits on their own. Most of the cases are dragging on and on, but in two cases the plaintiffs won and the decision is final. The two judges must be given back their jobs and compensated for their financial losses.


The Constitutional Court took its sweet time, but eventually it repealed the law affecting the judges. Viktor Orbán made it quite clear in July, however, that the government had no intention of carrying out the court’s decision. Instead, the government raised the possibility of changing the compulsory retirement age to 65.  János Áder, the new president, who should have reinstated the forcibly removed judges after the ruling of the Court, refused to fulfill his constitutional duty to do so. It was at this point that the European Court of Justice began to consider the matter in earnest on the urging of well over 100 judges who requested a review.

According to the ruling, the radical lowering of the retirement age for the judges constitutes “unjustified discrimination on grounds of age.” In the opinion it was stated that “the measure is not proportionate to the objectives pursued by the Hungarian legislature seeking to standardize the retirement age for the public-service professions and to establish a more balanced age structure in the area of the administration of justice.”

The official response from the Ministry of Administration and Justice was muted, noting that “the regulation referred to had already been annulled by the Constitutional Court in July of this year.” Viktor Orbán, as is his wont, was a great deal less restrained when he said that “one doesn’t often see someone who would hit a dead dog on the head.” After all, the law the European Court is talking about no longer exists.  Both the Chief Justice of the Kúria (formerly the Supreme Court) and the head of the Országos Bíró Hivatal, the above mentioned close friend of the Orbáns,  announced that their offices have nothing to do in the wake of the decision. It will be the legislature’s job to come up with an appropriate response that would remedy the present unlawful situation.

The opposition naturally wants the judges who would like to continue to work to be reinstated and allowed to work in their old capacities. Whether this demand will be met I very much doubt. According to Orbán, there is “no new situation as a result of the decision.” The Hungarian government will come up with a proposal to be submitted to parliament for “a new regulation on the retirement age of the judges.”

When I read this my first reaction was: “Here we go again!” The Orbán government with its never ending legal tricks will come up with another “solution” that will try to circumvent the decision. It will do that despite the European Commission’s promise “to keep an eye on the situation.” According to Viviane Reding, vice-chairman of the European Commission and Justice Commissioner, “the Court’s judgment is crystal clear and confirms the Commission’s legal analysis: Hungary’s forced early retirement of hundreds of judges, prosecutors, and notaries was against EU law. Hungary must now take all the necessary measures to comply with the judgment as soon as possible.” Moreover, since the Hungarian Constitutional Court mentioned only judges in its ruling but not notaries and prosecutors, Reding reminded the Hungarian government that it must remedy the situation in their case as well. The details of the ruling can be read in English on Portfolio.

Tomorrow there might be another unpleasant surprise, this time coming from Brussels. Hungary will learn whether the European Commission finds the financial plans the government submitted sufficient to lift the excessive deficit procedure against Hungary. If the decision is negative, Hungary might find herself in a grim financial state as early as 2013. The very substantial cohesion funds coming from the EU are at stake.

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Guest

London Calling!

Having signed the treaty – Orban plays fast and loose with his obligations.

Why should the EU not interpret their obligations as loosely as Orban?

Together with the IMF they have already discovered the tactic of just hanging Orban out to dry (as recommended by many of us on HS!).

I can hear a solid ‘plonk’ as a certain country’s cohesion funds go swirling down the plug hole.

Quite right too. The EU holds all the cards – and can just outwit Orban everytime if it chooses.

(Too many plush roundabouts, municipal dumps and ice rinks!)

Regards

Charlie

Cekkerfej
Guest
You should never forget for a moment that Mr. Áder, the current president of Hungary, who looks restrained, is also a Fidesz hardliner. He drafted the amendments on the judiciary act and I am also certain that the early retirement was at least partly his idea, he certainly supported it and continues to support it. He simply talks less to look more presidential, but that is all, he is a very important cog in the Fidesz power machinery. Áder, Orbán, Ms. Handó-Szájer are all close friends of each other, who go shopping together and the like. The Fidesz senior people are all lawyers, highly proficient in playing legal games and able to use the loopholes of the EU legal system. Fidesz will come up with a new law, which will be challenged again, and we will get another EU judgement in a year or two. Although I hope to get judgments from the ECHR as well. But nothing doing, the judges will be partly pacified by getting some kind of a golden handshake, the rest will get too old by the time any real remedy could take place. There is nothing in the EU with which you can force a… Read more »
Paul
Guest

CharlieH :
London Calling!
Having signed the treaty – Orban plays fast and loose with his obligations.
Why should the EU not interpret their obligations as loosely as Orban?
Together with the IMF they have already discovered the tactic of just hanging Orban out to dry (as recommended by many of us on HS!).
I can hear a solid ‘plonk’ as a certain country’s cohesion funds go swirling down the plug hole.
Quite right too. The EU holds all the cards – and can just outwit Orban everytime if it chooses.
(Too many plush roundabouts, municipal dumps and ice rinks!)
Regards
Charlie

They’ve had over two years, Charlie, and what have they done? Nothing.

And what will they do in the future? Nothing.

The only thing the EU can do is to stop giving Hungary money, which they won’t do because they can’t be seen to be responsible for the collaspse of a member country and the knock-on effects. The EU is a toothless tabby.

Member

I really want to know where the cohesion funds supposed to go? I mean is there an outline on what the money supposed to be spent on?
Is there a budget that we can look at how the cohesion fund will be spent?
If they do not get the money, what will happen with the items?
How would the money that is currently set out for various items would be restructured if EU cuts the money?
Is there a Budget A, and a Budget B?
Sorry for my ignorance, as maybe these items were covered before, but I am just not in the clear what Fidesz expects at this moment when their supporters are marching in full agreement with Fidesz of “who needs the EU?” signs.

cheshire cat
Guest

Paul, what sort of things would you expect the EU to do?

You are right, they haven’t got the right to do much, because stupidly and naively, they have assumed that such a thing (EU member-state does U-turn on democracy) would simply not occur.
I have always thought that enlarging the EU and accepting countries such as Hungary so soon was a mistake – and I still think so.
Now the EU have decided to somehow “run ahead” – create an inner circle within the EU, in which there will be strict rules, tight monitoring, more power to Brussels, and they will be more careful about who they take on. “Economic and Monetary Union 2.0” they call it – European Union take 2?

Let’s see what happens tomorrow. My bet is, Hungary remains under the excessive deficit procedure, but (as you say) they will not suggest suspending the cohesion funds.

PS. this gem about the EU court hitting a dead dog on the head – what amount of aggression is piled up in this man, always imaginarily slapping MEPs in the face, in the head, fighting, hitting, getting out of the way of violent attacks, “rendet vag”… it’s scary.

Member

Romney would be better for democratic values OUTSIDE the US.

Dictators like Chavez, Khameini, Morsi love Obama.

Now flame me.

Dizzy
Guest

Hehe. This is from the tumblr page of Péter Uj, the former editor in chief of Index, fired for political reasons. He was too troublesome and uncooperative. Anyway, the excerpt he cited is from an thrashy to the extreme site, but the text is a gem for those who speak Hungarian. It could be analyzed for hours. A former neighbor of Orbán’s grandfather talks about his experiences with the Orbán familiy. Weird shit, but should be read, though I apologize as well.

http://cvikli.tumblr.com/post/35076074337/az-biztos-mondta-az-ujasz-hu-nak-hogy-az-a

cheshire cat
Guest
Some1 “I really want to know where the cohesion funds supposed to go? I mean is there an outline on what the money supposed to be spent on? Is there a budget that we can look at how the cohesion fund will be spent? If they do not get the money, what will happen with the items? How would the money that is currently set out for various items would be restructured if EU cuts the money? Is there a Budget A, and a Budget B?” Mainly on transport and environmental developments. In February, when the Commission first suggested suspending the funds, it also worked out the details of what and where they would take the money from. It was mainly Johannes Hahn, the Austrian commissioner, in charge of regional policy, who was in charge of this process. Any projects that have already been approved by the EU and have started, would carry on, but they would not agree on and approve some new ones. It is also a partial suspension, of 30% of all the commitments, so everything would not suddenly come to a halt, motorway building sites and bank protection on the Danube left abandoned etc. You can… Read more »
Paul
Guest

cheshire cat :
Paul, what sort of things would you expect the EU to do?

I never expected the EU to do anything – as I have been saying on here for over two years!

The only powers they have (stop the money or kick the country out) are too drastic and would have far too many negative consequences. As you ay, they never thought it through (in much the same way as they never thought through letting Greece, etc into the Euro).

Unfortunately I seem to be in a small minority on this, many people have been expecting the EU cavalry to come charging over the hill and sort out Orbán ever since this madness started.

It an’t going to happen.

Ditto the IMF, and ditto the US. We’re stuck with Orbán unless the Fates intervene – or the opposition gets united and the people wake up. My money’s not on the latter.

Paul
Guest

Some1 :
I really want to know where the cohesion funds supposed to go? I mean is there an outline on what the money supposed to be spent on?
Is there a budget that we can look at how the cohesion fund will be spent?
If they do not get the money, what will happen with the items?
How would the money that is currently set out for various items would be restructured if EU cuts the money?
Is there a Budget A, and a Budget B?
Sorry for my ignorance, as maybe these items were covered before, but I am just not in the clear what Fidesz expects at this moment when their supporters are marching in full agreement with Fidesz of “who needs the EU?” signs.

Well, for a start, Hungary now has a motorway system no one could have dreamed of ten years ago – and which Hungary could never have afforded on its own. And, eventually, Debrecen will have a second tram line (I’m not holding my breath) – which, again, they could never have afforded otherwise.

And I dare say a lot of people in the motorway and tram line construction businesses are having a very nice Christmas this year.

Member
Paul : Some1 : I really want to know where the cohesion funds supposed to go? I mean is there an outline on what the money supposed to be spent on? Is there a budget that we can look at how the cohesion fund will be spent? If they do not get the money, what will happen with the items? How would the money that is currently set out for various items would be restructured if EU cuts the money? Is there a Budget A, and a Budget B? Sorry for my ignorance, as maybe these items were covered before, but I am just not in the clear what Fidesz expects at this moment when their supporters are marching in full agreement with Fidesz of “who needs the EU?” signs. Well, for a start, Hungary now has a motorway system no one could have dreamed of ten years ago – and which Hungary could never have afforded on its own. And, eventually, Debrecen will have a second tram line (I’m not holding my breath) – which, again, they could never have afforded otherwise. And I dare say a lot of people in the motorway and tram line construction businesses are… Read more »
Member

cheshire cat, THank you so very much for explanation. Also thanks for the links. It is too late for me to look at them now. I just stayed up to check on the USA elections, as I knew I would not be able to sleep anyhow. I will look into your links tomorrow (I mean today). THanks again.

LwiiH
Guest
cheshire cat : Paul, what sort of things would you expect the EU to do? Let’s see what happens tomorrow. My bet is, Hungary remains under the excessive deficit procedure, but (as you say) they will not suggest suspending the cohesion funds. I was able to meet up with a good friend this week who’s made his home on the nice isle of Crete. He was telling me about some of the radicalism that is starting to infect his community. It was a bit surprising because the Cretans have tended to shy away from the types of activities that are happening in Athens. The local police have been harassing what appear to be tourists that maybe don’t look so European. It’s all very disconcerting because to do spend a fair bit of time on the island and as I mentioned, you just don’t see the radicalism like you do on the mainland. I can only imagine that the EU is well aware of what’s going on in Greece and that this hyper-nationalism appears to be getting worse or is being exacerbated by the austerity being imposed there. I’m also sure the EU is aware of the propensity towards Hungarian hyper-nationalism… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!

Yes Lwiih</b? it's 'Golden Dawn' – the equivalent of Jobbik – and on the rise.

I mentioned it a couple of days ago.

(Nationalism; Nazi Uniforms; Harassing of minorities; Smashing their businesses – supported idealistically by 50% of the police.)

Regards

Charlie

Guest

Ok, a bit OT:

Congratulations, USA!

At least one positive piece of news – to think that the tea party might have taken over the White House makes me shudder …

Member

OT: Congrats to my American friends. You have chosen wisely. As one of my good friend said “Let’s celebrate Obama’s win with a tea party!

petofi
Guest

tappanch :
Romney would be better for democratic values OUTSIDE the US.
Dictators like Chavez, Khameini, Morsi love Obama.
Now flame me.

I agree. But, much like my thoughts about MSZP, one cannot forget and forgive the Republicans for the hopeless mess they put the world in prior to 2008 with their laissez-fair economic policies. (I suppose I mean banking policies..) I think it would be too soon to hand them the levers of power again.
Also, Ryan looked mightily dangerous.
However, in terms of foreign policy, the Repubs, a la Reagan, would’ve been feared (which, as every good Machievellian knows, is the roots of respect.)

petofi
Guest

Brussels has just accepted Matolcsi’s shenanigans, guaranteeing, I suppose, Hungary’s ‘cohesion funds’ for 2013. I guess this comes under the heading of ‘not feeding the troll’….Orban being a troll that feeds on conflict and opposition. Also, it’ll seem all the harder to paint the EU as the devil and the IMF as some strong-arm extension of it. The plan must be that when Hungary implodes eventually, Orban will have no convenient place to put the blame. It’s sad, though, that the angst of the country may be extended. When finally Orbanism will be done and eventually deconstructed, the Hungarian scenario will certainly provide the ‘new’ EU with what they ought to guard against. Let’s hope so.

cheshire cat
Guest

Paul,

“many people have been expecting the EU cavalry to come charging over the hill and sort out Orbán ever since this madness started.
It an’t going to happen.”

I agree.
Some people like to wait for a miracle or a “nice leader” to come and solve all the problems.
The EU will not risk robust intervention if it might cause social unrest or a default in Hungary. This whole “suspending the cohesion funds” scenario this year was partly their way of testing and demonstrating that the “six-pack sanction package” is a super one – because only THREATENING with the sanctions has made the member states comply; they didn’t even have to take money away from anyone.
They are not going to now say, oh, the Hungarians have reached their target deficit but not in a way we would have liked – so let’s start suspending their funds. No – as far as Brussels are concerned, the system works and it has brought results.

As for Orban, the Hungarians will need to go and vote for someone non-Orban if they want him to go. I’m – like you – a bit worried.

Louis Kovach
Guest

Petofi: “I agree. But, much like my thoughts about MSZP, one cannot forget and forgive the Republicans for the hopeless mess they put the world in prior to 2008 with their laissez-fair economic policies. (I suppose I mean banking policies..) I think it would be too soon to hand them the levers of power again.”

I beg to disagree, the bank control act (Glass -Steagal) was repealed by the Clinton administration. Unfortunately, mant other folks hang the issue on the Republicans. But ignorance rules….most of the time….

cheshire cat
Guest

Petofi, I hadn’t seen your comment before I typed mine – you also have a good point!

This is the video recording of part of Olli Rehn’s statement on Hungary today:

http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/player/streaming.cfm?type=ebsvod&sid=214810

He starts Hungary at 1.35, but it is interesting to watch what he says about Belgium before that. He is optimistic, enthusiastic, almost proud – and his non-verbal communication changes completely when he gets to Hungary. Avoids eye contact, looks serious, worried and almost ashamed of it.
So sad to see this – for me as a Hungarian. I would like to be proud of my country and not having to witness such contrasts. I might be oversensitive, I don’t know.

Paul
Guest
petofi : tappanch : Romney would be better for democratic values OUTSIDE the US. Dictators like Chavez, Khameini, Morsi love Obama. Now flame me. I agree. But, much like my thoughts about MSZP, one cannot forget and forgive the Republicans for the hopeless mess they put the world in prior to 2008 with their laissez-fair economic policies. (I suppose I mean banking policies..) I think it would be too soon to hand them the levers of power again. Also, Ryan looked mightily dangerous. However, in terms of foreign policy, the Repubs, a la Reagan, would’ve been feared (which, as every good Machievellian knows, is the roots of respect.) I always read tappanch’s posts with interest. Even when I don’t agree with them, I respect what he/she says, they are always well written and logically thought through. But this business about Republicans being better for democratic values outside the US floors me completely. Have we forgotten about Bush and Iraq? Or Regan and Nicaragua? And Chile? The list goes on – and on. OK, technically it was a democrat who ‘started’ the Vietnam war and a republican who ended it, but beyond that I can’t think of anything that’s supports this… Read more »
Member

Louis Kovach :
I beg to disagree, the bank control act (Glass -Steagall) was repealed by the Clinton administration. Unfortunately, mant other folks hang the issue on the Republicans. But ignorance rules….most of the time….

In the last year of the Clinton administration in 99. Then the republicans just watched the events unfolding for the next 8 years. Very convenient.

Hegemon
Guest
God, does anybody have any idea, how much the Commission hates to deal with the Orbán administration? They are completely exhausted, but they also hate the fact that they don’t really have the power to tell Orbán to stop and get lost once and for all. Orbán and Fidesz are probably the single most destructive political force within the EU right now. By the way the oh-so-gentlemanly Mr. Martonyi, everyone’s favorite moderate Fidesz cadre (just kidding), seems to be totally in line with this craziness (and he has not uttered a single critical voice during the last two years), he being the one spearheading Hungary’s Brussels efforts. I always have to lough hard when Martonyi, Szájer, Áder, Kósa, Navracsics are branded as moderates or even called sometimes liberal Fideszniks. Yeah, right. There is no such thing, it’s only the liberals deluding themselves for the umpteenth time. (E.g. Szájer wrote the new constitution which is probably the lowest quality such text ever written in Europe, Áder wrote the judiciary act which forced the judges into early retirement). They are one bunch, completely in lockstep with each other, without any self doubt, and all cheerfully executing Orbán’s craziest ideas. This is the… Read more »
Paul
Guest

“I’m – like you – a bit worried.”

CC – I’m “a bit worried” like you might be “a bit pregnant”!

Louis Kovach
Guest

Mutt: “In the last year of the Clinton administration in 99. Then the republicans just watched the events unfolding for the next 8 years. Very convenient.”

Hmmm. if you watched the Bekemenet then you were a participant? Your logic escapes me. Of course, if you preselected the guilty party, then there is no reason to discuss facts.

Kirsten
Guest

petofi :


However, in terms of foreign policy, the Repubs, a la Reagan, would’ve been feared (which, as every good Machievellian knows, is the roots of respect.)

One wonders how long that could be maintained. I think it cannot be concealed before the world that the US budget and government debt are in a rather strained position. To be a real threat to not one dictator but quite a number, means that the US budget needs more revenue. With the current income distribution and an unwillingness to tax the better-off, so that expenditure for the army (in the interpretation of tappanch: securing democracy in OTHER countries) might come at the cost of lower expenditure within the US, I am not so sure that this would be possible without a deterioration of the political climate IN the US.

Kirsten
Guest
LwiiH: ” He was telling me about some of the radicalism that is starting to infect his community.” “that this hyper-nationalism appears to be getting worse or is being exacerbated by the austerity being imposed there. I’m also sure the EU is aware of the propensity towards Hungarian hyper-nationalism” I think you mention a very important problem. A number of the problems of Greece, or Hungary, are home-grown. I think this is not really disputed. But, the problem with that is that if the population, or the majority of the population, or the “politically effective” population, is unable to come up with a domestic explanation for the misery and some ideas or policies that could improve the situation due to own efforts and without the recourse to radical solutions (implemented by an autocratic political system, be it nationalist or socialist) what can other countries do for such a country? The others are blamed from the start for all evil, and because also the other countries cannot come up with magical improvements or (as we have seen) are making the situation for Greece or Hungary more difficult in e.g. requiring more and more austerity, energy is fully absorbed in blaming others.… Read more »
Petofi1
Guest
Kirsten : petofi : However, in terms of foreign policy, the Repubs, a la Reagan, would’ve been feared (which, as every good Machievellian knows, is the roots of respect.) One wonders how long that could be maintained. I think it cannot be concealed before the world that the US budget and government debt are in a rather strained position. To be a real threat to not one dictator but quite a number, means that the US budget needs more revenue. With the current income distribution and an unwillingness to tax the better-off, so that expenditure for the army (in the interpretation of tappanch: securing democracy in OTHER countries) might come at the cost of lower expenditure within the US, I am not so sure that this would be possible without a deterioration of the political climate IN the US. In chess, there’s a tactical truth–‘the threat is better than the execution’. So in foreign policy, too. But you have to be credible. Reagan as a threat was credible, so the Iranians released the American embassy personnel the day before he was sworn in. That’s what I mean. Sending messages to the likes of Putyin ‘to reset’ is ‘tremble-in-your knees’ nonsense.… Read more »