MILAN (AP) — The Council of Europe's legal experts said in a report finalized Friday that Hungary's constitutional changes endanger the system of checks and balances, but backed off more scathing language after Hungary made some concessions.
The Venice Council's opinion on a new amendment to Hungary's constitution, which is viewed by critics as anti-democratic, carries no legal weight but will be taken into account in two weeks when the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly considers a unique monitoring procedure on Hungary. This is the first time the assembly would monitor an EU member state in this way.
The contested measures by the Hungarian government of Viktor Orban include strict limits on the definition of family that discriminates against gays, criminalization of the homeless and limits on political advertisements that the constitutional court has already said harms the opposition.
The experts said the constitution "should not be seen as a political instrument," and that the amendment "seriously undermines the possibilities of constitutional review in Hungary and endangers the constitutional system of checks and balances."
A draft leaked earlier was stronger, calling the measures "an attack on constitutional justice." Hungary's foreign minister addressed the commission earlier Friday, pledging that it would reverse some measures regarding the legal system.
"He made his case and the group of legal experts concluded there has been some progress, but still remained critical overall of the latest amendment," Council of Europe spokesman Panos Kakaviatos said.
Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said that while Hungary had succeeded in pushing through significant changes to the Venice Commission's opinion on the recently approved fourth amendment to the Constitution, it did not mean that Hungary agreed with the contents of the report.
"The government's position continues to be that democracy and the rule of law are stable in Hungary, we are committed to the fundamental European values and norms and we are ready to continue the dialogue about the Hungarian situation," Martonyi told state news wire MTI in Venice.
Orban remained defiant, saying the changes his government had pledged were "unnecessary" and saying Europe "is abusing its power."
Pablo Gorondi reported from Budapest, Hungary.