Rule of Law Report with politically biased EU officer

For several years in a row conservative Hungarian think tanks have participated in the targeted stakeholder consultation organized by the European Commission for the annual Rule of Law Report’s Country Chapter for Hungary. On these meetings the European Commission is represented by a team of EU officers that are involved in the process of evaluating the state of rule of law in the given member state and ultimately drafting the Country Chapter of the Rule of Law Report.

In the case of Hungary among these officers sits Gábor Magyar, a former Hungarian lawyer currently employed by the Commission as country desk responsible for Hungary and policy officer at the Justice Policy and Rule of Law Unit of the Directorate General for Justice and Consumers. Mr. Magyar not only participates in the team preparing Hungary’s Country Chapter but he is the one who chairs the above stakeholder consultations (known as country visits). Mr. Magyar is well known in Hungary for his statements that he had made in an interview in 2017 before joining the European Commission: „I feel to legitimise a regime through my lawyer activities [in Hungary], which does not anymore suit conditions of a human rights respecting, democratic rule of law state. Rule of law as backstage exists, there are actors on the stage, even the text is known, but the story is totally different because of autocratic director’s instructions. In this tragedy I do not want to be a bystander, but a theatre critic.

The political views that are expressed by Mr. Magyar are clearly biased against the Hungarian government and this for the very least fulfill a conflict of interest with his position that he currently holds as an EU officer. Moreover Mr. Magyar’s involvement in the drafting of Hungary’s Country Chapter of the Rule of Law Report raises further concerns as someone with clear prejudices in the topic under investigation is involved in a process that supposed to be impartial. All this fundamentally question the credibility of both the methodology of the process and the final Report’s as well.

The Hungarian conservative think tanks (Alapjogokért Központ, Danube Institute, Nézőpont Intézet, Századvég Alapítvány) raised this issue at both country visits for the 2022 and 2023 Rule of Law Reports with no effect and eventually wrote a letter to the European Commission after the latest round of the stakeholder consultation on 17 February 2023. The letter was sent and received by Imre Szijjártó, the Information and Communication Agent of the European Commission’s Representation in Hungary on the same day and was forwarded subsequently to the EC.

Almost 5 months has passed without reply since these think tanks approached the European Commission to address the above concerns. Finally, after the final, official version of the Rule of Law Report was published by the EC a reply arrived. In the official answer the Commission’s representatives confirmed that they don’t share the above concerns with the Hungarian NGOs.

The above think tanks find the EC’s reaction unacceptable and plan further actions to address the issue.

The NGOs’ letter can be accessed here and the European Commission’s response here.