EU to take punitive action against Hungary for flouting rule of law

EU to take punitive action against Hungary for flouting rule of law

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the European Parliament on Tuesday he would not bow to EU "blackmail" as lawmakers prepared to vote on whether to punish Budapest for eroding democracy.

On Wednesday the European Parliament voted 448-197 in favor of a report recommending the launch of a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's EU voting rights.

The same procedure is already underway against Poland, this time triggered by the European Commission.

The European Parliament was debating whether Hungary should face action over its policies on migration, the media, corruption and civil society that opponents say are against the EU's democratic values and the rule of law.

On Monday night, the opposition Socialist party announced that its two MEPs will vote for the findings of the Sargentini report.

Poland on Wednesday said it was very anxious by the European Parliament's rare decision to launch a procedure against Hungary for posing a "systemic threat" to the EU's founding values.

Peter Launsky, spokesperson for the Austrian government tweeted that the council "will deal with" the issue - without giving a timeline.

It was not immediately clear if Budapest will launch a legal challenge.

"The decision was made in a fraudulent way, and contrary to relevant rules in European treaties", he said.

"This is an invalid report, that has no legal outcome", Szajer said.

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

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The vote amounts to a stunning political blow for Prime Minister Orban, who had told the parliament on Tuesday that a scathing report leading to the vote was an insult to Hungary's honour and people.

Tory politicians have been accused of an "absolutely shocking" attempt to prop up Victor Orban's far right movement in the European Parliament.

Sant said that he disagreed with a number of the policies followed by the Hungarian government for their illiberal and authoritarian orientation.

Under pressure from the European Union Commission, Orban is facing a vote that could see Hungary lose its voting rights in the bloc for undercutting democracy and EU core values.

The Commission, headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, an EPP member, has repeatedly clashed with Orban's government, especially since it refused to admit asylum seekers under an European Union scheme launched at the height of the migration crisis in 2015.

The EPP membership has muted European Union reaction to Orban's policies over the years and the big question mark is how the group's 217 members will act when the vote is held on Wednesday.

Weber comes from the Bavarian CSU party, which is a key ally to Merkel's CDU, but the two have clashed over migration recently as CSU has adopted a tougher anti-migration line, edging closer to Orban's position.

"Today's vote gives hope of putting European values back at the centre of EU's agenda", declared Leonie Martin, Vice President of JEF Europe.

According to the official data, 115 EPP deputies voted in favour of the move, while 57 voted against, with 28 abstentions.

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. Szijjarto said Fidesz was committed to staying in the EPP but would seek ways to transform its stance from the inside.

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