MEPs vote in favour of tough action against Hungary

Sergio Conner
September 14, 2018

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's often toxic relationship with the European Union came to a head on September 12 when the European Parliament made a decision to trigger the so-called Article 7 procedure under EU law which would suspend some of Budapest's rights in the EU institutions after Orban's government was found to be a "systemic threat" to European values in the county.

"Effectively they voted to support the behaviour of the government of Hungary, its abuse of basic democratic rights including judicial and media independence, its denial of refugee rights and its pandering to anti-semitism and Islamophobia".

But Hungary's case is the first time that the EU Parliament is considering calling for the launch of the sanctions process for a member state because of a perceived threat to EU values.

Members of the European Union parliament have voted to begin a punitive procedure against Hungary for persistently flouting democratic rules.

One MEP (Member of the European Parliament) accused Orban of ruling a "state of xenophobia and creeping fascism that emboldens racists, misogynists and homophobes". The most severe punishment under the Article 7 procedure is stripping Hungary of its voting rights in the EU.

But the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, launched similar steps under article seven against Poland in December past year over its alleged threat to the independence of the courts.

"Whatever your decision will be, Hungary will not accede to this blackmail", an angry Orban told the lawmakers, whom he alleged had already made up their mind to activate article seven of the European Union treaty and seek measures to restrict his government's voting rights.

He said it has sent MEPs and European Union countries a 100-plus page rebuttal of Sargentini's "false" charges and that Orban will give a robust, but brief defence on Tuesday.

"Hungary shall continue to defend its borders, stop illegal immigration and defend its rights - against you, too, if necessary", he said, drawing applause from the eurosceptic, far-right lawmakers in the assembly.

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MEPs voted 448 in favour and 197 against, 69.4 per cent of a tally of 645 votes and above a two thirds majority threshold needed to begin the sanctions procedure.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacts during a speech at the plenary session at the European Parliament.

"This is a historic result for Hungarian citizens and for European citizens everywhere, that the European Parliament has voted by a large majority to stand up for the values we all hold dear".

The move dealt a stunning political blow to Prime Minister Orban, who had told the parliament a day earlier that a scathing report leading to the vote was an insult to Hungary's honour and people.

The group may now consider whether to suspend Orban's Fidesz party.

If also approved by national leaders, Hungary could face disciplinary action.

Orban has faced worldwide condemnation over Hungary's electoral system, violations of press freedoms, undermining the judiciary, Islamophobia and the mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and limits on the functioning of non-governmental organisations.

In July, the EU executive body warned it could take Budapest to the European Court of Justice over laws which call for up to a year in prison for anyone assisting an undocumented migrant.

"I have nothing to compromise about since the questions they objected to were decided by the Hungarian people", Orban said Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, after the debate in the European Parliament on the report on Hungary.

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