What happens when some EU member states implement laws on their territory that go against the values of the European Union?
TLDR News EU (an independent YouTube channel, mostly publicly funded online) proposes to answer this question by looking at the anti-LGBT laws put in place in Hungary and Poland.
In mid-2021, the Hungarian Parliament passed a law restricting LGBT freedoms. Originally focused on paedophilia, it was gradually modified by Hungarian MPs. They added amendments related to the LGBT community: restriction of sex education (removal of trans-identity and sexual preference) and of any media promoting LGBT content. Other laws also make a sex-reassignment surgery or adoption by non-heterosexual couples impossible.
Reactions were quick to follow. Many European leaders spoke out publicly against the new measure, 17 signed an open letter and even the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, condemned Hungary. The Dutch Prime Minister went further and explicitly asked the country to choose: to bow to European values or to leave the European Union. But realistically, could there be consequences for Hungary?
The question is more complex than it seems. No member country has the authority to expel a country from the Union. However, a punitive motion is possible within the EU – Article Seven. It can be activated if European values (freedom, democracy, equality, respect for human dignity and rights…) are violated and if it is validated by a vote of 2/3 of the Parliament and 4/6 of the European Council. In case of recurrence, more extreme measures (such as exclusion) can be taken, this time with the support of a 2/3 vote of the Parliament and of the entire Council.
Plot twist: subject to the same admonitions, Hungary and Poland (which has set up anti-LGBT zones) have concluded a mutual support pact preventing any unanimous vote in the Council.
No consequences, then? Not so sure. The European Commissioner for Equality is considering a withdrawal of all EU funding from Hungary.