Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

European Parliament votes to trigger Article 7 against Hungary

European Parliament votes to trigger Article 7 against Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suffered a rare political setback Wednesday as European Union lawmakers voted to pursue unprecedented action against his government over accusations that it undermined the bloc's democratic values and rule of law.

The ultimate sanction, the suspension of Hungary's voting rights, is unlikely as Poland is likely to veto any such move.

The vote against Hungary is symbolic of the growing tug-of-war in Europe between humanitarian values and increasingly nationalistic ones.

Fidesz MEP Jozsef Szajer, a close advisor to Orban, called the EP's decision the "petty revenge" of pro-immigration politicians.

The vote in Strasbourg, France, came after a report from Dutch Green member of the European Parliament Judith Sargentini raised concerns about Hungary's erosion of democracy in recent years, including putting pressure on courts, widespread corruption, crackdown on the media and academic institutions.

Requiring an absolute majority and 2/3 of votes cast, the legislative resolution was adopted with 448 in favor, 197 against and 48 abstaining.

Orban received a rebuke even from fellow members of the European People's Party (EPP), whose support he had counted on.

His typically feisty performance before EU lawmakers has boosted Orban's standing among nationalists at home and also among anti-immigrant parties that are expected to increae their presence in the next European Parliament (EP).

Mr Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal the result because of the way the vote was tallied. 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. Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union mentions respect for the rule of law as one of the values the EU is founded on.

The opposition to Viktor Orban received a boost last night when Manfred Weber, leader of the European Parliament's centre-right group the European People's Party (EPP), lost patience with his erstwhile ally and announced he would vote to trigger Article 7.

"If there isn't a clear signal from the European Parliament, then we have a very tough few months ahead of us, " said Marta Pardavi, co-chair of the Budapest-based Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

"I have always been in favor of building bridges and I want to continue to do so, but yesterday (Tuesday) I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his European Union partners and address our concerns", Manfred tweeted. Recently, the European parliament announced plans to sanction Hungary because it poses a "systematic threat" to democracy.

Much of Orban's conservative European People's Party in the European Parliament which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats voted in favour of the motion to sanction Hungary over the rule of law.

Orban characterised Wednesday's vote as a bid to weaken Hungary's position as a "symbol of resistance against migration".

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