Brussels has targeted Budapest for alleged discrimination and freedom of speech violation

The European Commission has referred Hungary to the Court of Justice over alleged violations of LGBT rights and freedom of speech. The move was announced on Friday as part of the Commission’s regular release of infringement decisions.

Budapest was targeted over its controversial Children Protection Act, a law originally designed to tackle pedophilia and generally safeguard children’s wellbeing. The law was amended last year to ban the display of homosexual content or gender change in education programs for those under 18 or in media that reaches minors.

While the amendment has been harshly criticized by multiple rights groups as discriminatory, Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz insisted it was needed to shield children from pedophilia.

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“The protection of children is an absolute priority for the EU and its Member States. However, the Hungarian law contains provisions which are not justified on the basis of promoting this fundamental interest or are disproportionate to achieve the stated objective,” the Commission said in a statement, claiming that the legislation violates multiple EU rules.

While Brussels had previously raised its concerns over the law with Budapest, the latter failed to act, the Commission noted. Now, it’s bringing Hungary to court over its legislation which allegedly “discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Commission also sued Budapest on a separate issue, related to an alleged freedom of speech infringement. The case stems from a decision by the Hungarian Media Council to reject the application of a local radio station called Klubradio to use a radio frequency once its license expired.

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The liberal-leaning station was denied a license owing to multiple alleged violations of the country’s media laws in late 2020 and has been broadcasting only online since then. The decision was made on “highly questionable grounds,” according to the Commission, and allegedly targeted the radio station in a “disproportionate and discriminatory” fashion.

Hungary, which has had repeated run-ins with Brussels over alleged issues with freedom of speech and the rule of law, was also targeted in the new infringement package for issues related to water quality. The Commission called on Budapest to apply EU rules on drinking water and make sure its tap water is “wholesome and clean.” Hungary “now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures,” or might face another court case, the Commission warned.

Brussels also launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over its decision to charge cars with foreign license plates more for fuel. The move is in violation of the “internal market provisions,” Brussels argued, threatening consequences should the situation not be sorted out.

“Acting unilaterally at national level and introducing discriminatory treatments goes against the principles of free movement in the Single Market and cannot constitute a solution,” the Commission warned.

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