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European Parliament approves start of proceedings against Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Photo: European Union 2018 - Marc Dossmann

The European Parliament voted in favour of initiating Article 7 against Hungary for breaching the European Union’s core values.

The vote achieved the required two-thirds majority – just a day after the MEPs debated a report by Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini on whether Article 7 should be activated against the country.

In an angry speech, Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban had said on Tuesday that the report was an “abuse of power” and had 37 serious factual misrepresentations. Hungary will not accede to this blackmail, he said.

This will be the first time that Parliament voted on a legislative proposal calling on the EU countries to initiate Article 7 proceedings against a member state in view of a risk of threat to the EU’s values.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee was tasked to assess whether infringement procedures against Hungary could be opened.

In their report, they listed 12 breaches including the weakening of the Constitutional Court and the judiciary, corruption, restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and intimidation of the media, non-governmental organisations and research institutions.

The report also expressed concern over violations of fundamental rights of refugees and minorities.

If a country clearly no longer subscribes to the shared values, it must be acted upon before it goes down to an authoritarian regime.

Informally known as the Nuclear Option, Article 7, has already been instigated against Poland but is still in the initial stages as there seems to be a reluctance to activate sanctions procedures.

As part of the procedures, the Dutch rapporteur and her colleagues conducted a series of interviews with experts, academics, representatives of the Hungarian government, the Venice Commission and NGOs, and evaluated documents on the state of the rule of law in the country.

“We have been seeing for years that Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, is shifting aside all the standards and values of the European Union,” said another Green MEP Bart Staes.

“Various investigations by independent international organisations show that the Hungarian rule of law has rapidly deteriorated due to the policies of the Hungarian government,” Staes said. “If a country clearly no longer subscribes to the shared values, it must be acted upon before it goes down to an authoritarian regime.”

Jean-Claude Juncker

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