Hungary PM revives death penalty debate, draws EU concern

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 29, 2015 7:56 AM

By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, under pressure from a eurosceptic right, said on Wednesday it wanted to raise the question of a possible reintroduction of the death penalty with its European Union partners.

A European Parliament member dismissed the idea as barbaric.

Hungary scrapped the death penalty as one of the terms of its accession to the EU in 2004. Orban raised the matter anew after the recent murder of a young tobacconist in southern Hungary that stirred anger in the country.

Fidesz's Parliament caucus leader said the party was aware European rules precluded capital punishment but a debate was still necessary.

"Even in an EU member state, if that country's public wants to have the death penalty ...then a substantial debate can be raised on the EU level," caucus leader Antal Rogan told public radio.

Orban has taken a hard line on a series of issues recently, including proposals for a crackdown on illegal immigrants as his Fidesz loses ground to the far-right, euro-sceptic, anti-immigrant Jobbik party. He said on Tuesday the question of reintroduction should be kept on the agenda in Hungary.

The leftist opposition said Orban was going against European values, while Jobbik Chairman Gabor Vona said the premier was copying his party's playbook.

At the European Parliament (EP), Austrian Socialist MEP Joerg Leichtfried called any return to capital punishment "barbaric and an infringement of European law."

EP President Martin Schulz said he had requested an opportunity to speak with Orban on the telephone.

Orban's press chief did not say on what EU forum Hungary might raise the issue.

"Consultations are necessary on the subject on a European level, so the PM will happily discuss it with the (EP) President," Bertalan Havasi told state news agency MTI.

(Reporting by Marton Dunai, Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in Brussels)