Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday a referendum will be held on child protection issues to combat pressure from the European Union to change recent amendments to education and child protection laws.
“In the past weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary over its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not permit sexual propaganda in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements,” he said in a Facebook video.
It comes as the EU Commission announced it will not approve Hungary’s recovery plan until it carries out judicial reform and guarantees that corruption cases are investigated.
There are systemic problems with the rule of law in Hungary, and the European Commission is ready to use all tools to protect democracy, including the suspension of EU funds, Reynders said on the hvg.hu news site.
In a report published on Tuesday, the European Commission listed serious concerns about the rule of law in Poland and Hungary.
The commission said both were undermining media pluralism and court independence. They are the only two countries in the 27-member bloc under formal EU investigation for jeopardising the rule of law.
Justice commissioner Didier Reynders said he would ask Hungary and Poland again to join the planned European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which they have so far not done, because “without that we cannot be sure that there is sufficient protection against fraud and corruption”.
He said all avenues for dialogue have been exhausted with Poland and Hungary, and this was why the commission wants to move against them.
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Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said on Facebook that the commission was “blackmailing” Hungary because of its child protection laws, which will not allow “LGBTQ-activists and any sexual propaganda into Hungarian kindergartens and schools”.
The Commission says the measures discriminate against LGBT people.
The commission’s report is “full of untrue claims that were dictated to Brussels by Soros organizations because Hungary will not give in to European liberal opinion hegemony,” the governing Fidesz party said in a statement, referring to billionaire US philanthropist and financier George Soros, who has long been vilified by Mr Orban.
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In a decade in power, Mr Orban has partly used billions of euros of state and EU funds to build a loyal business elite which includes some family members and close friends.
The commission cited persistent shortcomings in Hungarian political party financing and risks of clientelism and nepotism in high-level public administration.
Significant amounts of state advertising go to media supporting the government, while independent outlets and journalists face obstruction and intimidation, it said.