July 2023 | Parliament passes controversial education law
Despite protests by teachers, students and parents, the parliament has voted in favour of a controversial education law, which enters into force on 1 January 2024. The law abolishes teachers’ status as public servants, limiting their rights and restricting their autonomy. Further, the maintainer of their educational institution, which in most cases is the state, will determine their salaries based on their performance. Critics fear that loyalty to the state will count towards better performance evaluations. By 29 September, teachers can either accept these conditions or resign. More than 5,000 have already pledged to resign in a March petition. They consider the bill a government retaliation against their 1.5 years of striking for better pay and working conditions. Trade unions have criticized the law for overloading teachers and masking staff shortages, whereas the president, Katalin Novák, insists that it “ensures the [...] functioning of the public education system”.
June 2023 | EU Court rules Hungary’s migration regulation breached EU law
The European Court of Justice has ruled that Hungary broke EU law when it introduced a new law during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 making procedures more difficult for asylum seekers. The judgment found that the law deprived “third-country nationals or stateless persons concerned of the effective enjoyment of their right to seek asylum from Hungary”. The rules forced asylum seekers, including those already in Hungary, to submit a pre-asylum application at Hungarian embassies in Serbia or Ukraine before applying for international protection in Hungary. Authorities said that certain asylum seekers, such as Ukrainians, were exempt from the rules. The case was brought forth by the European Commission, which will now have to decide between demanding that Hungary repeal the regulation and levying fines.
April 2023 | President vetoes anti-LGBTQIA+ law
President Katalin Novák, who is considered a loyalist of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has unexpectedly vetoed a bill on the protection of whistleblowers. However, the law includes a paragraph that enables people to report those who challenge the “Hungarian way of life”. Hungary’s constitution defines marriage as an institution between “one man and one woman”. This was considered another attack on LGBTQIA+ rights and same-sex parents. The president argued that the “protecting the Hungarian way of life” paragraph does not belong to the EU Whistleblower Act and that this weakens constitutional rights and fundamental values. Although the president has returned the legislation to the parliament, lawmakers can still decide to adopt it. Hungary’s crackdown on LGBTQIA+ rights has faced strong opposition, including the European Commission’s lawsuit over the country’s 2021 Child Protection Law, which was considered an attack on the LGBTQIA+ community. 15 EU-member states have joined the legal proceedings before its deadline on 6 April.
December 2022 | EU freezes billions of euros of funding for Hungary
The European Commission will withhold EUR 22 billion of Hungary’s 2021-27 cohesion funds, intended to promote sustainable development for poorer member states. The move comes following Hungary’s failure to conform with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, particularly related to academic freedoms, LGBTQIA+ rights and the asylum system. An additional EUR 6.3 billion were frozen until a set of conditions related to dealing with corruption are fulfilled. The EU also suspended EUR 5.8 billion in funds from Hungary’s Covid-19 recovery fund, pending required changes in the country’s judicial independence. The Commission’s decision underpins the dispute between the EU’s promotion of democratic values and Hungary’s democratic backsliding. The EU’s plan is a major setback for Hungary, and it aims to pressure the country to implement the required reforms. International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy Indices classifies Hungary as a democratic backslider as of 2019 and as a severe backslider as of 2021.