The Hungarian government’s widely criticised attempt to cull the country’s judiciary by lowering the retirement age of judges to 62 has run foul of the European Court of Justice. The court ruled this week that the changes constituted unjustified discrimination.
Lower retirement ages are part of a package of constitutional reforms brought in by prime minister Viktor Orban since his election in 2010. Budapest has denied that the measures harm judicial independence. However, the ECJ ruled that lower retirement ages were not necessary to achieve a standard retirement age for public sector workers or to establish a more balanced age structure.
European judges pointed to the ‘well-founded expectation’ of Hungarian judges that they would be able to remain in office until 70, and to the failure to provide transitional arrangements for those affected. In particular, the court referred to the discrepancy in levels of salaries and pensions, as well as to the contradiction of the retirement age for the general pension scheme increasing to 65.
The court’s ruling followed an action brought by the European Commission against the Hungarian government for failure to fulfil its obligations under a directive relating to equal treatment in employment and occupation.