December 15th, 2011

Deputy PM raises concern over Slovak citizenship law with EU

Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics said he had raised concern over Slovakia’s citizenship laws at a private meeting with the EU’s Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, arguing the law breached the Union’s charter of fundamental rights.

Navracsics, who is attending a meeting of EU justice ministers in Brussels, said that in Monday’s meeting with the Vice President of the European Commission in charge of justice, he reiterated Hungarian concerns already outlined in a letter addressed to Reding last week.

Navracsics, who is also minister of justice, said the Slovak law ran contrary to the free choice of identity. 

“I believe the European Union must go further than saying this is a Hungarian-Slovak conflict […] because it violates the charter of fundamental rights,” Navracsics said. The treaty guarantees the right to freely choose one’s identity for EU citizens. The European Commission, which guards EU rights, including the charter of fundamental rights, must take action if they are violated, he added.

“If a democracy robs its own citizens of their citizenship by applying sanctions against people who practice their right to a free choice of identity, I believe it becomes a problem of democracy,” he said. The free choice of identity is a basic right in modern democracies, he added.

Navracsics said Reding had assured him that the issue would be thoroughly examined in Brussels and a written reply would be sent to Hungary.

An EU diplomat who wished to remain unnamed told MTI that the European Commission would also study Slovakia’s position before making an assessment of the issue.

Navracsics said Reding had asked him at Monday’s meeting about data protection regulations in Hungary, with regard to the extent of independence it guarantees to the authority. He said he had told her that the data protection authority was politically independent; its head is appointed by the president of the republic and is not subordinated in any way to daily politics. He added that he had told Reding Hungary would provide a more detailed report on this subject in writing.

The aforementioned EU diplomat said the committee in Brussels was expecting Hungary’s written reply by Friday.

Reding also inquired about Hungarian regulations on the retirement age of judges and asked whether they were not discriminatory, Navracsics said. He said he had explained to her that the new regulations were in line with the trend to apply a general retirement age limit in all professions. He added that former judges can decide to continue working for instance as legal advisors.

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