Over the end of last week, Hungary passed draconian legislation that bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, challenged that Hungarian legislation was opposed to the “values based” of the European Union. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte echoed this sentiment on Thursday, saying that Hungary has “no place in the EU” anymore.
In 1993, the European Council convened in Copenhagen to establish what is now known as the “Copenhagen criteria” for membership. The conditions were set to ensure that any new member state would share the EU’s ideals, as well as economic prosperity, in an attempt to preserve vision and continuity.
However, while the Council agreed on joining and exiting procedures, it never agreed on how to expel a member state failing its obligations under the Copenhagen criteria.
Rutte suggested to journalists at the EU summit in Brussels last week that while one country alone cannot begin the process to expel another member state, perhaps there could be a possibility if 26 other countries agreed to.
The last Hungarian anti-LGBTQ law appears to contravene the very first requirement for membership according to the Copenhagen criteria: a country must have “stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities”.
The question surrounding EU membership is a contested one to say the least. Since its foundation, the EU has expanded to include ex-Yugoslav Balkan states, as well as economies that did not initially meet membership requirements, such as Greece. Since then, it has also seen the exit of a member state, the United Kingdom. However, there has never been a case of expelling a member state from the European Union, and the ability to—or lack thereof—sets a significant political challenge.
Mark Rutte is an outspoken Europhile, who makes it his political ideology upholding human rights. He has spoken out against Assad’s regime in Syria and lately has said he won’t partake in an EU summit with Putin.
However, coalesced decision-making in the EU is hard to come by, and even harder without procedures in place.