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400 Hours of Mandatory Overtime, Political Judges & Tear Gas in Hungary - EPP Remains Silent

On the 12th December, Hungary adopted two laws which pose serious threats to both labour rights and to the rule of law in the country. As FYEG we strongly condemn the adopted changes, as well as the disproportionate reactions of the government towards the protestors. We are concerned about what the authoritarian developments in Europe’s centre-right - with complicit support of the EPP - mean for young people around the continent, for human rights and the rule of law, and for the future of the European project as a whole. We stand in solidarity with the activists jailed and tear gassed by the authorities.

On the 12th December, in an unprecedentedly chaotic parliamentary session of the Hungarian legislature, Viktor Orbán’s party and its coalition partner (both EPP) adopted two laws which pose serious threats to both labour rights and to the rule of law in Hungary. Despite the entire opposition’s obstruction attempts, heavy criticism and comments on the lack of involvement coming from the trade unions, the government parties raised possible mandatory overtime for workers from 250 hours to 400 hours a year, opening the door for a 6 day working week. Furthermore, the laws allow employers to pay said overtime any time in a three year period, meaning employees might be forced to work more and only receive their salaries years after the job is done. According to a poll published by Policy Agenda, 83% of workers are against the law. The government commented that it is in the interest of German manufacturers in the country that these amendments are enacted.

The other law adopted creates a parallel system of the judiciary. It lays down the foundation of courts, which are not independent from the government, as the Minister of Justice will have appointment rights over judges. These courts will be able to pass judgement on cases concerning taxes, construction permits, protests, strikes, the disclosure of data of public interest, and even voting irregularities. The right to appeal will also change, as it will not be the Supreme Court of Hungary passing final judgement in these cases, but a separate Administrative High Court.

These changes come right after the forced departure of the Central European University from Budapest and are additions to the long list of steps in which the Orbán government is threatening the rule of law and legal certainty in Hungary. Protests immediately erupted, joined by labour unions and students, who were met with tear gas and truncheons. Multiple students were taken into custody, some are facing prison sentences of up to 8 years.

As FYEG we strongly condemn these latest attacks on labour rights and the rule of law in Hungary, as well as the disproportionate reactions of the government towards the people protesting these laws. We demand that the European People’s Party finally clarifies where its so called “red lines” are in relation to its member party Fidesz and its President Viktor Orbán. We are deeply concerned about what the authoritarian developments in Europe’s centre-right mean for young people around the continent, for human rights and the rule of law, and for the future of the European project as a whole. We stand in solidarity with the activists jailed and tear gassed by the authorities, and support the people opposing the above-mentioned legislation and the government of Viktor Orbán which is day by day turning Hungary into an autocracy.

(Photo by Júlia Halász, 444.hu)