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EU starts legal action against Hungary (and Poland)

July 17th, 2021

Reacting to the infringement procedure launched by the European Commission over LGBTQ issues, a pro-government historian thinks this controversy resembles the clash over asylum-seekers in the late 2010s. A left-wing commentator, by contrast, sees a clear political motive behind the ‘child protection law’ identified as homophobic by the European Commission.

On Thursday, the European Commission launched infringement procedures against Hungary and Poland, accusing them of violating gay rights. In Hungary, the cases include the law which bans access to content that promotes or portrays paedophilia, pornography, divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality for individuals under 18; and a disclaimer imposed on a children’s book with LGBTQ content. (Regarding Poland, the Commission considers that the Polish authorities failed to respond to its inquiry regarding the nature and impact of the so-called ‘LGBT-ideology free zones’ in several Polish regions and municipalities.) In his by-weekly radio interview on Friday, PM Orbán said ‘Brussels is abusing its power by wanting to impose its will on us. What is at stake is the freedom of children and of raising children’, he added.

In Magyar Hírlap, historian Irén Rab likens the current controversy to the one over illegal migrants in 2015. Once Hungary was not allowed to restrict their movements within its borders or keep them waiting just outside until their requests were processed, she recalls, the government decided to only accept applications through its consulates abroad. The case was referred by the Commission to the European Court and Hungary was found in breach of European values. This time, she writes, it is about Hungary’s defence of traditional values that are also enshrined in the German Fundamental Law, where the idea of the traditional family is also outlined. True, that definition is under attack from ‘children’s rights warriors’, she remarks. In both cases, Rab suggests, the conflict is about preserving European civilisation.

On 168, the 168 óra website, Tamás Boros tries to trace the ‘child protection law’ back to the scandal of the former Hungarian ambassador to Lima who got away with a light sentence after he was found in possession of thousands of paedophile images, acquired through a paid subscription to a paedophile internet ring. Boros speculates that the original version of the ‘anti-paedophile bill’ which proposed harsher sanctions in the Penal Code against paedophile acts was meant to mitigate the unfavourable effect of the scandal on the government’s image. The paragraphs on LGBT promotion and representation which amended several other laws, Boros believes, were added as the opposition was improving its ratings in opinion polls, in the wake of newly announced plans to privatise motorways and build a campus for China’s Fudan University. He suspects, however, that the price the government may pay for that manoeuvre might be higher than expected. For instance, Hungary’s programme to spend the Covid recovery funds has been put on hold by the Commission.

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