Kim Lane Scheppele, Princeton University
On 8 April, Hungary lost again at the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ). The European Commission had alleged that that Hungary violated the independence of its data protection officer and the ECJ agreed. The case broke little new legal ground. But it is important nonetheless because it signals serious trouble within the EU. The case exposes Hungary’s ongoing challenge to the EU’s fundamental principles. And it exposes the limitations of ordinary infringement proceedings for bringing a Member State back into line.
The Commission may have won this particular battle, but it is losing the war to keep Hungary from becoming a state in which all formerly independent institutions are under the control of Fidesz, the governing party. The Commission clearly sees the danger of one-party domination and it has attempted to challenge the Hungarian government before. But the Commission has so far not picked its battles wisely or framed its challenges well. It could do better. The case of the data protection officer is a case in point.