Is there an Appetite for Democracy in Hungary?

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech during a debate concerning Hungary’s situation

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech during a debate concerning Hungary’s situation

The report authored by Green MEP Judith Sargentini says there is a "clear risk" of a serious breach by Hungary of the values of the European Union and calls for the Article 7 procedure, which ultimately suspends a member state's voting rights, to be opened.

In the unprecedented move, 448 MEPs voted in favour of launching the so-called "Article 7" procedure, 197 against and with 48 abstentions, the EP referred Hungary to the other member states to check the health of the country's democracy.

That put them on the same side as UKIP, as well as major global far-right parties like the National Front in France and the Northern League in Italy.

Orban, whose right-wing Fidesz party has governed Hungary since 2010 and was re-elected in April for a third consecutive term on a strongly anti-immigrant platform, is playing a long-term political game in Europe.

It is the first time that the parliament has launched the European Union disciplinary process against a member state, known as Article 7.

According to European Commission documents, the first set of procedures, Article 7 (1), are meant to help prevent "a serious breach of European values".

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).

Macron said the vote presented a choice of "values" for the Old Continent's future. In addition to the bill, the Hungarian parliament also passed a constitutional amendment stating an "alien population" can not be settled in Hungary.

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"Each EU Member State has a sovereign right to carry out the internal reforms that it considers appropriate", the message said.

Poland will "vote against any possible sanctions" that could be "imposed on Hungary within ..."

MEPs supported in March a similar Commission proposal that sought to activate the preventive mechanism in the case of Poland.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called the vote the "petty revenge of proimmigration politicians" and said Hungary would fight it.

The vote against Hungary is symbolic of the growing tug-of-war in Europe between humanitarian values and increasingly nationalistic ones.

He challenged the legality of the vote saying that not counting abstentions as votes cast is irregular, and they will challenge the vote with the EP's leadership.

Mr Orban has also expressed his desire to remain within the EPP, which he said was "deeply divided" on the issue of migration. "[I] am in harmony with today's decision", he said through a spokeswoman's Twitter account. The message to government is clear: undermining and violating basic rights and values can not go unpunished in Europe, Socialist MEP Istvan Ujhelyi said.

The most severe punishment under the Article 7 procedure is stripping the country of its voting rights in the European Union, however, that is highly unlikely to happen as the rest of the European Union needs unanimity and Poland's nationalist and anti-immigration government is expected to block any tough action against Mr Orban.

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