BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission decided on Friday to sue Hungary over an anti-LGBT law and its refusal to renew the license of Klubradio, a broadcaster critical of the government, in the latest clash over values that risks damaging the European Union’s cohesion.
The two lawsuits add to a long list of increasingly bitter standoffs between Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the liberal core of the EU over human rights and democratic standards.
“The European Commission today decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU over a Hungarian law which discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” said the EU’s executive.
It also sent a second lawsuit to the Luxembourg-based court over Budapest rejecting Klubradio’s air waves application.
“We address attacks to independent media via all the tools that we have,” said European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova.
Klubradio, whose guests often criticise government policies and which now only broadcasts online, was forced off air more than a year ago.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said the Klubradio case did not undercut media freedom or plurality, while the Commission’s lawsuit over the LGBT law was “baseless”.
“EU membership does not affect Hungary’s right in any way to make decisions of its own about child protection and in accordance with its national identity,” she said.
That case relates to a law Hungary enacted last year banning the use of materials seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change in schools.
Touted as protecting children by the government of Orban, who presents himself as a defender of traditional family Catholic values, it was criticised by human rights groups and international watchdogs as discriminating against LGBT people and labelled a “disgrace” by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The EU executive has withheld billions in aid to Hungary over disputes related to gay rights, as well as the independence of its media and courts.
Separately on Friday, the Brussels-based EU executive started legal action against Hungary for discriminatory fuel pricing against vehicles with foreign licence plates.