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European Union parliament takes on Hungary's Orban in unprecedented vote

European Union parliament takes on Hungary's Orban in unprecedented vote

"Hungary will not give in to blackmail", the Hungarian prime minister insisted, "but will defend the European borders and European values of democracy".

"You believe you know better than Hungarians themselves what they need".

With 448 votes in favour, 197 against and 48 abstentions, the motion passed in the Strasbourg plenary session on Wednesday, the first time the European legislature has triggered "Article 7" procedure against an EU member state.

It is the first time in EU history that the European Parliament had initiated and approved such a motion, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass and was approved by 69.4 percent of the lawmakers. The European Commission launched Article 7 proceedings against Poland in 2017 over its judicial reforms. Rapporteur Judith Sargentini had to start them again when very late was the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

"Democracy in our member states and in our European Union can not exist without the rule of law", Timmermans said, and went on to list concerns about fundamental rights, corruption in Hungary and the treatment of migrants.

Orban has faced global condemnation over Hungary's electoral system, violations of press freedoms, undermining the judiciary, Islamophobia and the mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and limits on the functioning of non-governmental organisations.

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 voted to censure Orban's government for its repeated attacks on minorities, dissenters and journalists, and the independence of the judiciary.

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The MEP said Hungary was going to challenge the vote in the parliament - an issue that could end up at the EU's top court. The group of leftists and greens in the assembly said "Orban's authoritarian moves must be curbed".

If Hungary will be subject to disciplinary procedure, some other European Union countries unable to stand up.

Dutch lawmaker Sophie in 't Veld urged the EU to consider cutting generous subsidies to Hungary, asking: "Why are we giving Mr Orban €87-million a week in order to destroy the European Union?"

"We will not accept compromises on the core of our democratic values and principles".

"Hungary shall not bow to blackmail", said Orban, whose right-wing Fidesz party was re-elected with a landslide majority last April. "Fundamental values have to be protected".

French President Emmanuel Macron, an outspoken defender of European Union values, has urged the EPP to clarify its stance, saying it could not back both Merkel and Orban at the same time. "We are staying and we are fighting". Although Orban's Fidesz party is part of the EPP, several of the lawmakers voted against their Hungarian allies.

"The Sargentini report was not adopted today, because only by violating voting rules was it possible to reach the necessary two-thirds majority laid out in the treaty", Szajer said, arguing that if they had included abstentions, the two-thirds majority would not have been achieved.


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