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Could Hungary break the EU?

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Hungary’s controversial new anti-LGBTQ law which took effect on July 7 has blown open tensions within the EU over what to do with a rogue member state.

The new bill – which includes the new Child Protection Act and the Family Protection Act – was initially designed to protect children from paedophiles following a scandal last year when the Hungarian Ambassador to Peru received just a small fine for possessing thousands of indecent photos of minors. The problems started, however, when Hungary’s governing party Fidesz added amendments in June to restrict LGBTQ education and rights, including outlawing information perceived as promoting homosexuality or gender change to minors in schools, in adverts and even on TV shows before the 10pm watershed.

This move has provoked a furious response from fellow EU leaders. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte took the firmest stance, stating on June 24 that Hungary deserved to be ejected from the EU and pledging to bring Hungary “to its knees” on the LGBTQ issue. The new law is seen to undermine Article 2 of the founding treaty of the EU, which states that discrimination against anyone on the basis of sexuality, ethnicity and gender are not allowed under the terms of membership.

Hungary’s democracy is young. The country emerged out of Soviet Communist control in 1991 and rapidly sought to pivot to the West, embracing free markets. Its entry into the EU in 2004, with a landslide 83 percent approval in a people’s referendum, should have further cemented Hungary’s position within Western democratic philosophy. But that hope was short-lived.

The Hungarian government’s stance towards the LGBTQ community is just the latest infraction of the EU’s rules and values by Hungary. Since the far-right Prime Minister Victor Orbán came to power in 2010, institutions designed to curb the powers of the state, such as a free media and an independent judiciary, have been actively eroded.

On the first day of 2012, his government started to centralise the judiciary and dramatically dropped the age of retirement for judges from 70 to 62, forcing more than 200 to retire. The European Commission noticed and the European Court of Justice ruled it unlawful in November 2012. Orbán eventually repealed the retirement rule, but while the legal ruling gave dismissed judges the right to compensation or reinstatement of........

© Al Jazeera

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