Assessment of Hungary’s judicial reforms
On 3 May 2023, the Hungarian Parliament adopted Act X of 2023 on the Amendment of Certain Laws on Justice related to the Hungarian Recovery and Resilience Plan. The Hungarian government now claims to have met all four of the so-called super milestones aimed at restoring the independence of the judiciary set by the Council of the European Union as a precondition for accessing frozen EU funds under Hungary’s Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF).
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As assessed by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Amnesty International Hungary, and the Eötvös Károly Institute, the Reform is a remarkable step forward compared to the draft proposal that the government published for public consultation in January 2023. While the proposal reflected the Hungarian government’s intention to avoid compliance with those super milestones that demand core changes in the judicial system, the adopted Reform, in general, shows a willingness to fulfill these conditions.
Nevertheless, compliance with the super milestones is still deficient under the reform.
These remaining deficiencies cannot be deemed as minor in any case. The judicial reform expected by the super milestones is of exceptional importance as it is rooted in long-standing rule of law concerns and forms a legal minimum for restoring the independence of the judiciary. Thus, compliance with the super milestones — constituting minimum standards for restoring the independence of the judiciary — should be assessed with particular care and without compromise, no matter their technical nature. The main shortcomings of the reform also signal that the government’s willingness to comply with the conditions for EU funds is not coupled with a true commitment to restoring the rule of law.
The joint assessment prepared by three NGOs points out the main deficiencies of the reform and calls attention to future risks and prospects to be considered in restoring the independence of the judiciary.