'The Unfortunate Bias Of The Commissioner Towards Hungary', By Ferenc Kumin

  • 2 Apr 2013 9:00 AM
'The Unfortunate Bias Of The Commissioner Towards Hungary', By Ferenc Kumin
Ever wonder if there is any issue in Hungary on which the different political sides agree? Take a look at this recent quote of Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship from an interview at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

(Original version-PDF, English version):

“(…) last year, the Hungarian Minister of Justice complained several times to me that the Irish Supreme Court refused to extradite an Irish citizen who had committed manslaughter in Hungary, to Hungary and to stand his trial in front of the Hungarian judiciary. Personally, I was not surprised – after all, this was precisely during the time when many decisions were taken in Hungary which raised serious questions about the independence of the Hungarian justice system.”

All due respect, but that’s totally inappropriate. She not only overstepped her role as a European Commissioner independent of member state interests, but she’s also out of step with the facts. Here’s the background.

In 2000, an Irish citizen was involved in a car accident in Hungary that killed two Hungarian children. According to the court case, the driver, Francis Ciaran Tobin, was traveling at speeds far exceeding the limit when his car hit two children, ages 2 and 5, killing both of them. Tobin was convicted in May 2002 and sentenced to three years in prison, but fled to Ireland and still walks free.

The dates here are important. Hungary became an EU member in 2004. At that point, Hungary was able to issue a European Arrest Warrant so the criminal who had already stood trial and been convicted could serve out his sentence - in Hungary or in Ireland. This is an instrument of the European Union (2002/584/JHA), and the Irish authorities are in violation of that ruling of the Council. That’s where the Commissioner comes in.

But with her comment, Commissioner Reding clearly take sides in a matter between two member states that dates from 2004 and is pushing an opinion completely irrelevant here.

I don’t want to seem irreverent, but it seems to me that Madame Commissioner, who assumed her current post in February 2010, should have been better acquainted with the facts. She should have known that Mr. Tobin had already stood trial and been convicted. She should have known of the European Arrest Warrant and that there is an EU rule in matters like this. She should have know that this is about serving out a sentence, in Hungary or in Ireland, and that a professionally reasoned response to Hungary’s formal request would be in order.

And she should have known better than to step in the middle of it in the clearly biased way she did.

Unfortunately, the Commissioner doesn’t seem to have understood why her comments are a problem. Again yesterday, she voiced an opinion that the adoption of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law threatens the independence of the courts and spoke of the “dramatic worsening” of the situation in Hungary. The process of a formal review of the amendment has just got underway, but apparently Commissioner Reding has already drawn her own conclusion.

That’s called prejudice, and it’s unbecoming of a European Commissioner.

In an editorial published in the European Voice, Andrew Gardner writes about the quotes in the FAZ article and the Tobin affair (though his dates are incorrect) and finds himself scratching his head, baffled at how a Commissioner could make such a statement.

The largest Hungarian newspaper, Nepszabadsag, which is hardly pro-government and partially owned by the Hungarian Socialist party (a 27.5 percent share), has called for her resignation. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Tibor Navracsics has expressed his indignation and requested a response.

Commissioner Reding has achieved something rare indeed. With her unfortunate comments, she has managed to bring together sides of Hungarian politics that seldom agree on anything these days.

Source: A Blog About Hungary by Ferenc Kumin

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