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European Parliament votes to censure Hungary over anti-democratic shift

European Parliament votes to censure Hungary over anti-democratic shift

M - Members of the European Parliament traded verbal blows with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a debate Tuesday over democracy and the rule of law in his country, CNN reports.

But Hungary's case is the first time that the EU parliament is considering calling for the launch of the sanctions process for a member state because of a perceived threat to European values.

Human rights NGOs enthusiastically welcomed the European Parliament's approval to start punitive Article 7 proceedings against Hungary on Wednesday (12 September), after a vote that revealed deep divisions inside the biggest political family, the European People's Party. This marks the first time the European Parliament has taken that step, though Poland faced similar action from the European Commission past year.

It was the first move of its kind in the European Union against a member state, garnering two-thirds of the votes.

"The truth is that the verdict has already been written", Orban said.

Mr Orban has for years deflected much of the global condemnation of Hungary's electoral system, media freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees and limits on the functioning of non-governmental organisations.

"Hungary will not accede to this blackmailing, Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration and - if needed - we will stand up to you", Orban told the European lawmakers. "Do you think you know better what the Hungarian people want", Orban said, explaining that Hungarian decisions are taken by voters in the legislative elections.




Grabbe's organization is part of the Open Society Foundations set up by Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, an ideological opponent of Orban and blamed by the Hungarian leader, along with the NGOs Soros supports, for promoting mass immigration into Europe.

Verhofstadt went on to say that Orban was not his country, and that Hungary was "far more eternal" than Orban's far-right government.

Even Orban's fellow migration hardliner, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, unexpectedly said his party's five European lawmakers would vote against Budapest.

"There are no compromises on the rule of law", Kurz said.

"A resounding majority of MEPs today rejected and condemned the retrograde policies of the Hungarian government, which are taking Hungary away from the path of shared European Union values".

The Commission, headed by EPP member Jean-Claude Juncker, has repeatedly clashed with Orban's government, especially since Budapest refused to admit asylum seekers under an European Union scheme launched at the height of the migration crisis in 2015. The European Parliament voted to censure Orban's government for its repeated attacks on minorities, dissenters and journalists, and the independence of the judiciary.

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left, with disquiet also in the main centre-right parliamentary group, the European People's Party (EPP). Although Brussels and Budapest have repeatedly clashed over immigration and refugee policy, the vote on Wednesday addressed broader concerns with the state of democracy and rule of law in Hungary.