The EU Court in Luxemburg rules that removal of Hungarian DPA was illegal

10/04/2014

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) published its decision on 8th April that the removal of Dr. András Jóri from his position as Data Protection and Freedom of Information Ombudsman is an infringement of the independence of the Data Protection Authority and therefore illegal (PL&B International Report December 2011 p.27). The Hungarian government requested a "limitation of the temporal effects of the judgment"  which was refused by the ECJ. Therefore the ECJ's decision implies that Dr Jóri should be reinstated.

The decision is an important step forward in the broad interpretation of “complete independence” of Data Protection Authorities as required by the EU Data Protection Directive after the previous cases, Commission v Germany and Commission v Austria.

Dr. András Jóri was elected Commissioner by a qualified majority of the legislature for 6 years in 2008. However, after having conducted high profile investigations into government data protection practices during his mandate, the government proposed and the legislature adopted a new data protection law in July 2011, abolished his office at the end of 2011 and established a new Data Protection Authority starting on 1 January 2012. According to the European Court of Justice, the premature termination of the mandate of a DPA without objective reason is a breach of ”complete independence” of DPAs as set out by the EU Data Protection Directive.

A Hungarian Ministry of Justice spokesperson stated that they are now studying the judgement, while Opposition Green Party, LMP, issued a statement which called the government’s procedure “a political revenge” against the former Ombudsman after his investigations into government practices. Dr. Jóri is now working as a data protection consultant advising governments in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and was one of the five shortlisted people in the controversial selection process for a new European Data Protection Supervisor.

This is an edited version of a report by Dr Andrea Soos, a Hungarian lawyer e-mail: andrea.soos@sooslaw.hu

ECJ documents on the case:
http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?pro=&lgrec=en&nat=or&oqp=&lg=&dates=&language=en&jur=C%2CT%2CF&cit=none%2CC%2CCJ%2CR%2C2008E%2C%2C%2C%2C%2C%2C%2C%2C%2C%2Ctrue%2Cfalse%2Cfalse&num=C-288%2F12&td=%3BALL&pcs=Oor&avg=&page=1&mat=or&jge=&for=&cid=137031

Dr Jóri’s account of these events: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-94-007-5170-5_18

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