The European Commission will contact the Hungarian authorities for further information about Hungary’s church law and to assess whether it is in conformity with a relevant EU directive, justice commissioner Viviane Reding said in answer to a written question on Wednesday.
The question was submitted by three members of the European Parliamentary delegation of Hungary’s main opposition Socialist Party. It said that Hungary had recently adopted legislation on the right to freedom of conscience and religion and on the legal status of churches, religious denominations and religious communities which, according to the MEPs, “disregards the criterion ‘genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement’, as set forth in Directive 2000/78/EC,” and extends the exemption to grounds other than religion and belief, in breach of the directive.
The question was signed by Hungarian MEPs Kinga Goncz, Zita Gurmai and Csaba Tabajdi, as well as British MEP Michael Cashman of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats , Austria’s Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/ALE), Holland’s Sophia in’t Veld (ALDE), Catalonian Raul Romeva i Rueda (Greens/ALE) , Finland’s Sirpa Pietikainen (PPE) and Britain’s Baroness Sarah Ludford (ALDE).
In her written answer, Reding said the Employment Equality Directive prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation in employment and occupation. She added that under strict conditions, the directive allows “differences of treatment where a particular characteristic related to a ground covered by the Directive is a ‘genuine and determining occupational requirement’ for the job in question.”
Reding said that according to the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, exceptions to the principle of equal treatment have to be interpreted narrowly and member states’ legislation on conditions of recruitment, the termination of the employment relationship and other working conditions must comply with the principle of equal treatment.
“The Commission will contact the Hungarian authorities for further information and to examine whether Hungarian law is in conformity with Directive 2000/78/EC,” she said.