European Parliament votes to trigger Article 7 sanctions procedure against Hungary

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left as there is disquiet in the main centre right European People's Party, about his position despite the grouping including his Fidesz party

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left as there is disquiet in the main centre right European People's Party, about his position despite the grouping including his Fidesz party

European Union (EU) legislators voted Wednesday to launch punitive action against the Hungarian government for moves against "democratic values", according to multiple reports.

"New Democracy will vote in favour of the Sargentini report calling on the European Parliament to activate the envidaged sanctions procedure against Hungary, in accordance with Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union", he said.

Orban has for years deflected much of the worldwide 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 organizations.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, echoing Orban's longtime position, called the result "petty revenge" against Hungary for its tough anti-migration policies.

There were 48 abstentions, so the 448 in favour exceeded the two-thirds needed only because it was based on 645 votes. If the abstentions were counted into the final tally, there would have been a total 693 votes, so the 448 in favour would not have reached two-thirds.

He also said Hungary would seek legal ways to challenge the ruling as abstaining votes were not counted, and this, he said, changed the outcome of the vote.

Greece's Conservatives will support possible disciplinary action against Hungary in the European Parliament which is debating whether the country has breached core EU values, party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Hungary and the Hungarian people are being condemned because they proved that migration can be stopped and there is no need for migration", Szajer said.

With Britain about to leave the bloc altogether in March and Europeans voting in European Parliament elections in May, the row over Hungary - and Poland, which faces a similar sanctions procedure launched by the executive European Commission in 2017 - highlights tensions between nationalist and federalist camps.

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"The Hungarian people deserve better", Sargentini said.

Members of the European Parliament take part in a vote on the situation in Hungary during a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 12, 2018.

Eventually, it would be up to the other 27 European Union states to decide on what to do with Hungary should the parliament's first-ever such vote pass.

The vote was reportedly an unexpected blow to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of pressuring courts and media and has refused to accept asylum seekers since assuming power in 2010.

On Tuesday, Orban said his country was being targeted for choosing not to be "a country of migrants" as he dismissed charges of corruption.

Orban has insisted that all the criticism against his government is based on Hungary's tough anti-immigration policies, which include fences built in 2015 on Hungary's southern borders with Serbian and Croatia to divert the flow of migrants and very restrictive asylum rules.

Zoltan Kovacs, spokesperson for the Hungarian government called the vote a "fraud".

Orban has blamed Merkel for Europe's migration crisis, while the Hungarian leader was criticised for breaching worldwide standards and rules on migration and treating asylum seekers harshly. "He protects his citizens against terror and defends the identity of his country", he said.

Weber, a candidate to succeed fellow EPP member Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the commission next year, saw his bloc vote 115 for, 57 against with 28 abstentions.

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