Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

In Unprecedented Vote, European Union Decides to Punish Hungary for 'Undemocratic Actions'

Explained EU parliament targets Hungary's'breach of values The Council of Ministers- the second legislative organ of the EU- will now take up the issue
Deanna Wagner | 15 September, 2018, 22:33

Taking the lead for the first time to launch a disciplinary procedure against a European Union (EU) member state, the European Parliament voted Wednesday in Strasbourg to trigger Article 7 of the European treaties against Hungary, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's voting rights.

When asked for comment, a Hungarian government representative cited Palkovics' interview from June in which he had said they are "currently examining whether actual training is being performed by the CEU in the United States with the involvement of education experts".

The Hungarian prime minister received harsh criticism, even within his own political family.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses MEPs during a debate on the situation in Hungary at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2018.

Losing voting rights in the European Council would ultimately hurt Hungary, rather than the government, but if the Article 7 procedure is launched it would be "Viktor Orbán's responsibility alone", Green opposition party LMP said.

If launched by the European Council, these procedures will put in place a series of mechanisms created to protect against the breach in terms agreed to by the member state when they joined the European Union.

There were 48 abstentions, so the 448 in favor exceeded the two-thirds needed only because it was based on 645 votes.

It is the first time that the parliament has launched the European Union disciplinary process against a member state, known as Article 7.

"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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Hungary has promoted Moscow's interests within the European Union, repeatedly calling for the ending of economic sanctions imposed after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Mr. Orban's government introduced a law that criminalised representation of asylum seekers by lawyers and activists with accusations of silencing independent media and curtailing academic freedom also been levelled against him.

On Tuesday, Orban said his country was being targeted for choosing not to be "a country of migrants" as he dismissed charges of corruption.

But Judith Sargentini, who presented the report prepared by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, welcomed the outcome.

But Italy's anti-immigration Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said his League party's six European Union lawmakers would support Orban.

Rule of law is a key principle in democratic states.

"Every country has its sovereign right to make internal reforms it deems appropriate", Poland's foreign ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The EPP's leader, Manfred Weber, said he would vote in favour of the motion targeting Orban's government, whose Fidesz party belongs to his grouping.

His refusal to budge this time cost him support in the EPP conservative grouping, which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, who have criticised some of Orban's policies.