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European Union parliament votes to stop Hungary 'threat' to democracy

16 September 2018, 04:29 | Devin Moran

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech during a debate concerning Hungary’s situation

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech during a debate concerning Hungary’s situation

Hungary's government will decide on Monday on legal steps to challenge a European parliament ruling against the country for flouting democratic standards, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

If approved, the motion would go to the EU's national leaders, theoretically opening the way for sanctions such as a suspension of Hungary's voting rights in the bloc. Szijjarto slammed the debate and the vote as a "show trial", arguing that Sargentini had compiled it without ever arranging a delegation visit to Hungary.

In a rejoinder, Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto described the move as the "petty revenge" of pro-immigration politicians.

The motion to trigger Article 7 was passed in the Strasbourg plenary session with 448 votes in favour, 197 against and 48 abstentions. Critics say that Hungary's electoral system is disproportionate; media freedoms and judicial independence are dwindling; asylum-seekers and refugees are mistreated and there are limits placed on non-governmental organizations.

He also claimed that the vote involved "massive fraud" since abstentions weren't counted into the final tally, which made it easier to reach the needed majority.

"Viktor Orban's government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash", Sargentini said.

On 11 September, MEPs will discuss a proposal to the Council to trigger a procedure that seeks to prevent a serious breach of European Union values in Hungary.




It is the first time that the parliament has launched the European Union disciplinary process against a member state, known as Article 7. "The Hungarian people deserve better".

Amnesty International's expert on human rights in the EU, Berber Biala-Hettinga, said the European Parliament had "rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU".

"I have always been in favour of building bridges and I want to continue to do so but yesterday I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his European Union partners and address our concerns", he said on Twitter.

With Britain about to leave the bloc altogether in March and Europeans voting in European Parliament elections in May, the row over Hungary - and Poland, which faces a similar sanctions procedure launched by the executive European Commission in 2017 -highlights tensions between nationalist and federalist camps.

When asked if Fidesz would stay in the EPP, he said it has become clear that the EPP is seriously divided on the issue of migration.

The partnership has created increasing uneasiness as leaders who portray themselves as defenders of liberal European values, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have found themselves covering for Orban as he cracks down on civil society and the free press.

In a brief speech to parliament on Tuesday, Orban vowed that Hungary would resist any attempt to "blackmail" it into softening its anti-migrant stance, which he charged was the motive behind the vote.



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