09:33 GMT21 January 2021
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    Interest in the interrelations between older European Union countries is usually focused on financial issues with meetings amongst Euro chiefs mainly dominated by money.

    However, it appears that it's no longer just money matters that members are interested in — for one particular EU member — it's a matter of life and death.

    Hungary, which is part of the group of EU countries referred to as the 'accession countries' that joined the EU after 2004, has called for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

    Viktor Orban believes penalties for serious crimes were too lenient and that capital punishment should be "kept on the agenda" in Hungary. In response, Austrian MEP Joerg Leichtfried said the return of the death penalty would be "barbaric".

    In response to Orban, European Union chief executive Jean Claude Juncker demanded that the Hungarian Prime Minister drop his suggestion that the country might reintroduce capital punishment. Juncker told reporters that the European Union's fundamental charter "forbids the death penalty" and that "Mr Orban must immediately make clear that this is not his intention. If it would be his intention, it would be a fight."

    The comments from Viktor Orban have been made at a particularly sensitive time and reveal a growing gap in ideals and shared policies amongst the accession countries and older EU members.

    A French citizen, who faced death for drug trafficking by a firing squad in Indonesia, has been given a temporary reprieve. Eight other people weren't so lucky and were executed.

    Speaking before the executions took place, EU President Donald Tusk said:

    "The European Union is completely opposed to the death penalty."

    French President Francois Hollande also said he would do "everything possible up to the last moment" to prevent the death of the French citizen in Indonesia, as "abolishing the death penalty is for us [in France] an absolute principle." 

    Meanwhile, Nils Muiznieks, the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe has also expressed concern over "the populist trend in political discourse in Hungary" in connection with Prime Minister Viktor Orban's recent remarks on the death penalty and other subjects.

    "The idea of reintroducing the death penalty which has been raised by Prime Minister Orban is incompatible with Hungary's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, and runs contrary to the values that Europe stands for."

    Guy Verhofstadt, head of the European Parliament's liberal group, called on the European People's Party to withdraw support for Orban.

    The EPP, to which Orban's Fidesz party belongs, tweeted:

    Related:

    Indonesia Executes 8 for Drug Offenses Despite Int. Pleas for Clemency
    UN Urges Indonesia to Impose Moratorium on Death Penalty
    US Seeks 'Better' Ways to Kill Instead of Removing Death Penalty - Amnesty
    Pakistan Lifts Death Penalty Moratorium Completely
    Tags:
    crime, moratorium, capital punishment, EU membership, execution, death, human rights, death penalty, European Convention of Human Rights, European People's Party, Fidesz, Council of Europe, Donald Tusk, Viktor Orban, Jean-Claude Juncker, Hungary, Europe
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