The forcibly retired judges won in Luxembourg, but did they?

As many critics of the Hungarian government feared or hoped–depending on the individual’s temperament–the European Court of Judges ruled against the Orbán government’s attempt to make a clean sweep of the Hungarian judicial system. By getting rid of hundreds of judges who had passed their sixty-second birthday, although they still had eight years to go until their mandatory retirement at the age of seventy, the government could “refresh” the ranks of judges with younger judges of its own picking.

After all, the Orbán government managed to get rid of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and replace him with a man whom it deemed less troublesome than András Baka, who had been nominated by former President László Sólyom. The government also completely reorganized the whole judicial system, at whose apex it placed Tünde Handó, a close friend of the Orbán family and the wife of one of the founders of Fidesz. So, through these new appointees the government currently has a certain amount of control over the the judiciary, especially if they find the “right men and women” to rule according to the government’s taste.

This radical firing of judges seemed problematic from day one, and the judges affected did not take this latest assault on themselves lying down. After all, they know the law. Now that only the ombudsman can petition the Constitutional Court, they barraged Máté Szabó to turn the case over to the Constitutional Court. Meanwhile others began suits on their own. Most of the cases are dragging on and on, but in two cases the plaintiffs won and the decision is final. The two judges must be given back their jobs and compensated for their financial losses.


The Constitutional Court took its sweet time, but eventually it repealed the law affecting the judges. Viktor Orbán made it quite clear in July, however, that the government had no intention of carrying out the court’s decision. Instead, the government raised the possibility of changing the compulsory retirement age to 65.  János Áder, the new president, who should have reinstated the forcibly removed judges after the ruling of the Court, refused to fulfill his constitutional duty to do so. It was at this point that the European Court of Justice began to consider the matter in earnest on the urging of well over 100 judges who requested a review.

According to the ruling, the radical lowering of the retirement age for the judges constitutes “unjustified discrimination on grounds of age.” In the opinion it was stated that “the measure is not proportionate to the objectives pursued by the Hungarian legislature seeking to standardize the retirement age for the public-service professions and to establish a more balanced age structure in the area of the administration of justice.”

The official response from the Ministry of Administration and Justice was muted, noting that “the regulation referred to had already been annulled by the Constitutional Court in July of this year.” Viktor Orbán, as is his wont, was a great deal less restrained when he said that “one doesn’t often see someone who would hit a dead dog on the head.” After all, the law the European Court is talking about no longer exists.  Both the Chief Justice of the Kúria (formerly the Supreme Court) and the head of the Országos Bíró Hivatal, the above mentioned close friend of the Orbáns,  announced that their offices have nothing to do in the wake of the decision. It will be the legislature’s job to come up with an appropriate response that would remedy the present unlawful situation.

The opposition naturally wants the judges who would like to continue to work to be reinstated and allowed to work in their old capacities. Whether this demand will be met I very much doubt. According to Orbán, there is “no new situation as a result of the decision.” The Hungarian government will come up with a proposal to be submitted to parliament for “a new regulation on the retirement age of the judges.”

When I read this my first reaction was: “Here we go again!” The Orbán government with its never ending legal tricks will come up with another “solution” that will try to circumvent the decision. It will do that despite the European Commission’s promise “to keep an eye on the situation.” According to Viviane Reding, vice-chairman of the European Commission and Justice Commissioner, “the Court’s judgment is crystal clear and confirms the Commission’s legal analysis: Hungary’s forced early retirement of hundreds of judges, prosecutors, and notaries was against EU law. Hungary must now take all the necessary measures to comply with the judgment as soon as possible.” Moreover, since the Hungarian Constitutional Court mentioned only judges in its ruling but not notaries and prosecutors, Reding reminded the Hungarian government that it must remedy the situation in their case as well. The details of the ruling can be read in English on Portfolio.

Tomorrow there might be another unpleasant surprise, this time coming from Brussels. Hungary will learn whether the European Commission finds the financial plans the government submitted sufficient to lift the excessive deficit procedure against Hungary. If the decision is negative, Hungary might find herself in a grim financial state as early as 2013. The very substantial cohesion funds coming from the EU are at stake.

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59 comments

  1. Louis Kovach :
    Well I cite a personal experience here. I have traveled in some 40 countries in the past 10 years. My pocket was picked only once in Madrid Spain in a market. Fortunately, the local police was observing the gang that committed the act and I got back my wallet in 10-15 minutes from the police. The policeman stated “Sorry Sir, a gang of Hungarian gypsies stole your wallet but we observed the act and caught them. Please check the contents.”
    Sorry Some1, the article cited by you is a philosphical discussion of crime types and cannot be directly related to the issue at hand.

    And that is because clearly you support the HUngarian oligarch supported by Orban.
    Bu thank goodness you did not starve to death because those Hungarian gypsies stole your money. I am telling you, they probably even hiding in the Space Station, so better if you contact NASA.
    At the same time let’s not forget about those gypsies who robbed blind the Hungarian Government: “Szeptember végéig több mint tízezer bűncselekmény miatt vizsgálódtak a Nemzeti Adó- és Vámhivatal (NAV) pénzügyi nyomozói. A kétes esetek elkövetői nagyjából százmilliárd forinttal rövidítették meg a közkasszát.” I am sure every single one of them were gypsies. You know those who do not travel and pick-pocket but those who have thousands to start with. Kovach, you are so shortsighted that it is not even funny any more. It is all about You, You, You, isn’t it? If we could just move all the gypsies to an island then no one would still your wallet no more. I am sure world peace would return. Hungary would be a blooming country with no debt. Trianon, the Jews and the Roma who steal your wallet are the problem.THank goodness we have Orban.

  2. Some1: The stillness of my wallet is due to Obama not the Gypsies!
    I hope Hungary will be as successful in catching the tax cheats as the US was in the near past with the undeclared Swiss acoounts of US citizens. Perhaps they can start looking at Cyprus, Malta and the Caribean havens first.

    When someone answers you, or critically comment on your writing, you can sure bring all sorts of irrelevant items into the discussion. As they said in Hungary “crickets and bugs”…..

  3. tappanch :
    @Paul
    It is fashionable to bash Israel for the ills of the Middle East, so I just calculated the level of “bloodiness” of the various conflicts there by using the measure “number of killed / year” including civilian deaths.
    Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988) 77,800
    Syrian civil war (2011-2012) 24,000
    US-Iraqi & Iraqi civil war (2003-2009) 18,000
    Arab-Israeli wars & conflict (1948-2012) 1,900
    On the side – Obama is not the first president who has criticized Israel, think of Eisenhower, for instance. It is not as difficult, as the antisemitic media let you believe – the self-identified Jewish population of the US has shrunk to 2%, and 2/3 of them do not care about Israel.

    The only “bashing” of Israel I do is for the ills of Israel. I won’t go into the detail here as I’m sure you know the details – whether you accept them or not.

    But I am very surprised to see you, of all people, trying to make out that the blind support of Israel by the US is solely down to the ‘Jewish Lobby’. Such a lobby undoutably exists and has an influence out of all proportion to its size (although perhaps more in the past than it does now), but the true power behind the unquestioning pro-Israel policy of the USA is the extreme right-wing ‘Christian’ block.

    I’m also puzzled by your menton of “the anti-semetic media”. I’m not very familiar with the media in the US, so you’ll have to enlighten me on this one. In the UK I can’t think of any significant anti-memitism in our media (certainly not in the mainstream), in fact the opposite is mostly the case, as most Brits have the simplistic view (to a large extent thanks to our equally simplistic media) that Israel are the ‘good guys’ and the Arabs the cause of all the problems.

  4. Louis Kovach :
    Some1: The stillness of my wallet is due to Obama not the Gypsies!
    I hope Hungary will be as successful in catching the tax cheats as the US was in the near past with the undeclared Swiss acoounts of US citizens. Perhaps they can start looking at Cyprus, Malta and the Caribean havens first.
    When someone answers you, or critically comment on your writing, you can sure bring all sorts of irrelevant items into the discussion. As they said in Hungary “crickets and bugs”…..

    I am sorry, but how would this be irrelevant, when it was You, who said that since a Hungarian gipsy stole your wallet in Spain, the article that brings attention to the fact that most crime is not committed by gipsies is irrelevant. I am confused. Your fear of the gipsy crimes because of your stolen wallet, certainly justifies the overwhelming propaganda against gipsies. Hungary would not have to go so far to recover “hidden money”, they just have to go into the Parliament.

  5. I’m not at all sure where the exact figure about crimes committed by Gypsies are coming from since according to Hungarian law you cannot make ethnic distinctions of sorts mentioned by Louis. It might be a guess only

    Otherwise, I’m pretty sure that the numbers of pretty crime are higher in the Gypsy population but look around in what circumstances they live. Foreigners simply cannot believe when they go to these villages overwhelming populated by Gypsies under what they see is in Europe.

  6. Dr Balogh: “I’m not at all sure where the exact figure about crimes committed by Gypsies are coming from since according to Hungarian law you cannot make ethnic distinctions of sorts mentioned by Louis. It might be a guess only.”

    A little more attention to your blog please! I have not presented ANy crime ratios for Hungary. I only commented on numbers given by Tappanch!

    Some1; The hidden money issue is irrelevant to the discussion. Again, I only used numbers given by Tappanch.

  7. Louis Kovach :
    Dr Balogh: “I’m not at all sure where the exact figure about crimes committed by Gypsies are coming from since according to Hungarian law you cannot make ethnic distinctions of sorts mentioned by Louis. It might be a guess only.”
    A little more attention to your blog please! I have not presented ANy crime ratios for Hungary. I only commented on numbers given by Tappanch!
    Some1; The hidden money issue is irrelevant to the discussion. Again, I only used numbers given by Tappanch.

    The hidden money was in relevance to gipsy crime. It is unlikely that most of the hidden money is being hidden by the gypsies. Gypsy crimes are not the most common crimes in Hungary, but it is a perfect PR tool for any government and racist organizations to divert the attention from the real problems. You brought up your stolen wallet, and many Hungarians bring up stories about gypsy crimes. Why didn’t you bring up any of your relatives’ story of stolen money in Hungary? How does gipsy crime compare to Fidesz nationalizing private pensions or to the distribution of the land leases to Fidesz members with no experience versus the real “farmers”? How many people are affected by taxpayers money spent on the cost of Fidesz “consultations” or the hiring of British and American firms to work on the Fidesz PR campaign? That money is coming from me (as I pay taxes in Hungary too), from tappanch (who just told us that they immediately cut his salary by 20%), from the retired people who got a 1.9% increase on their pension (as Fidesz promised to preserve the strength of the pensions with inflation. The lowest inflation rate was in July at 3.1% by the way), and so forth. I was never directly been affected by gipsy crime, but my money is being stolen by Fidesz, big time!

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