Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

European Union punishes Hungary with unprecedented action

EU Parliament to Debate Possible Sanctions Against Hungary New Democracy to vote against Hungary in European Parliament | Kathimerini
Ebony Burgess | 14 September, 2018, 18:29

Members of the European Union parliament have voted to begin a punitive procedure against Hungary for persistently flouting democratic rules.

"All my solidarity. No to sanctions and to trials of freely elected governments", read the post by Salvini, who is also Italy's Deputy Prime Minister.

And Timmermans told Orban "if you want to be a member of a club you have to abide by the rules", saying the Commission would take Hungary to court if it found it had violated European Union rules.

This move marked the first time that Article 7 of the European Union constitution has been triggered, which can suspend certain rights of a state, Al Jazeera noted, adding that the vote may lead to Hungary's voting rights being stripped.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, echoing Orban's longtime position, called the Wednesday's vote "petty revenge" against Hungary for its tough anti-migration policies and said the vote involved "massive fraud" because abstentions were not included into the final count, which made it easier to reach the needed majority.

S&D Group vice-president responsible for the report on Hungary, Josef Weidenholzer MEP, said that "Viktor Orbán, we will not stand aside while you trample on the rights of ordinary Hungarians".

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party has called on opposition MEPs to reject the Sargentini report in the European Parliament this week, according to local media reports on September 10.

If the resolution is adopted, it will be the first time that the European Parliament takes the initiative for such a procedure, though it has backed an Article 7 action taken against Poland, triggered in December 2017 by the European Commission.

But Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs claimed in a tweet that the motion had failed because the overall vote did not receive the support of two-thirds present.

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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.

The vote is a response to the actions of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has disparaged independent media, academics, the courts, minorities and refugees.

"The European Commission is using the tools we have, launching infringement procedures against countries that don't respect EU law".

Orban said it was a case of his political opponents trying to silence those who did not agree with them.

"To say that criticizing laws, criticizing the government would amount to criticizing a nation or a people, frankly speaking Mr. Orban, that's the coward's way out", Timmermans said near the end of the debate.

Also on Tuesday night Orban also faced the prospect of his party being kicked out of the right-wing party group in the European parliament.

"Democracy in our member states and in our European Union can not exist without the rule of law", Timmermans said, and went on to list concerns about fundamental rights, corruption in Hungary and the treatment of migrants.

Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal the result because of the way the vote was tallied. Should the EPP move against it, Fidesz would be under huge pressure to leave the group.

It will also be a test for Merkel ally and EPP head Manfred Weber, who announced his bid to become the new head of the bloc's executive European Commission next year.

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