Hungarian PM faces crucial debate at European Parliament

14 September, 2018, 18:29 | Author: Charlene Valdez
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Two-thirds vote by Members of the European Parliament could trigger Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, suspending Hungary's voting rights as a rebuke for "anti-migrant" policies.

Mr Orban has for years faced worldwide condemnation over 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.

"The big issue is how the EPP will vote, particularly Mr. Weber", said Maria Joao Rodrigues, a leading Portuguese member of the Socialists and Democrats group, which supports the motion.

The move means that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government could eventually lose its European Union voting rights, Deutsche Welle reported.

Several non-governmental organizations targeted by the Orban government with restrictive rules - including a special tax on activities considered as promoting immigration and the criminalization of the aiding of asylum-seekers and refugees - also hailed the vote's outcome.

The motion passed with the required two-thirds majority of 448 MEPs backing the declaration that Hungary is at "clear risk of serious breach" of European Union core values, including judicial independence, academic freedom and freedom of expression.

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"I am so proud that my Hungary report has the support of the European Parliament, but this is foremost about the rights of Hungarian citizens", Sargentini wrote on Twitter after the vote.

"In today's historic vote, the European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU".

Speaking in front of the assembly on Tuesday, Orban said he would not bow to the EU's "blackmail" but stick to his policies.

On Monday the leader of Austria's far-right party, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, said he would "gladly" invite Orban's party into a common bloc, and Italy's new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has also expressed admiration for Orban.

"The European Parliament vote should serve as a wake-up call to EU institutions and national governments that press freedom is a fundamental democratic value that needs to be vigorously defended and promoted throughout the 28 member states, starting with Hungary".

In July, the EU executive body warned it could take Budapest to the European Court of Justice over laws under which anyone assisting an undocumented migrant could be jailed for a year.

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There is disquiet in the main centre right parliamentary group, the European People's Party (EPP), about his position, despite it including his Fidesz party. Should the EPP move against it, Fidesz would be under huge pressure to leave the group.

The vote, however, has little chance of ending up with the ultimate penalty of Hungary being suspended from voting in the EU.

Full invocation of Article 7 to limit Hungary's voting power is expected to be hard, observers said, noting that such a vote requires full agreement from the European Union, and nationalist governments like Poland's are likely to block severe moves against Orban.

Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilder on social media called the results a "bloody shame" and Orban "a hero who deserves the Nobel Prize".

"Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize".

"We are going back to a European history none of us want to see again", said European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

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