EU Parliament votes for action against Hungary on the Article 7 procedure

Howard TerrySep 14, 2018

The move saw some members of the European People's Party bloc - of which Orban's Fidesz movement is a member - vote against their ally in Budapest.

In a draft resolution approved by five European Parliament committees before passing to the full plenary, MEPs expressed concern for a number of European values - enshrined in the European treaties ratified by all member states upon joining - that have been allegedly under attack in Hungary.

By 448-197, MEPs backed triggering the so-called Article 7 procedure in an unprecedented move which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's European Union voting rights.

MEP Angel Dzhambazki, who sided with Orban, wrote on Facebook condemning the motion and adding that, "today the European Union went in the direction of its Soviet counterpart".

"Hungary will not give in to blackmail", the Hungarian prime minister insisted, "but will defend the European borders and European values of democracy".

The voting, however, does not mean immediate sanctions against Hungary, as the parliament passes the motion to the European Council, which has to unanimously decide on the punitive measures.

It is the first time that the Parliament has taken this step against a national government.

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.

Hungary's foreign minister has fired back at the European Union parliament decision to trigger Article 7, which can lead to sanctions against Budapest over its immigration policies, branding it the "petty revenge" of pro-migrant politicians.

The 197 votes cast against parliament's bid illustrate the substantial minority of European opinion who see Orban as a crusader for the rights of nation states and ethnic majorities against rules of civic behaviour agreed on by the EU in Brussels.

He also said Hungary would seek legal ways to challenge the ruling as abstaining votes were not counted, and this, he said, changed the outcome of the vote. The European Commission launched Article 7 proceedings against Poland a year ago that have yet to reach the European Parliament.

"The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU".

The EPP group, the largest in the parliament, on Tuesday evening, held a meeting with Orban, after which their leader, Manfred Weber announced he would vote in favour of launching the procedure.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch anti-immigration Freedom Party, called the vote - which also weighed on Hungarian assets - "a bloody shame".

Aside from its anti-immigrant stance, Orban's government is also accused of silencing independent media and academia, removing independent judges, cracking down on organisations helping homeless people, migrants or disadvantaged groups, such as Roma, and condoning government corruption. "There is nothing to talk about".

Although Orban's Fidesz party is part of the EPP, several of the lawmakers voted against their Hungarian allies.

After the vote, Sargentini thanked her colleagues for standing up "for the protection of democracy and the rule of law, above their interest in party politics".

Hungary adopted legislation in July that further restricts asylum claims and criminalizes "supporting and facilitating illegal immigration". The group of leftists and greens in the assembly said "Orban's authoritarian moves must be curbed".

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