Saturday, 22 September, 2018

European Union punishes Hungary with unprecedented action

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a debate concerning Hungary's situation as part of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg eastern France Hungary to take legal steps against critical EU ruling - PM Orban
Jeannette Daniel | 15 September, 2018, 22:29

The European Union voted to punish Hungary over violation of its core values.

If launched by the European Council, these procedures will put in place a series of mechanisms created to protect against the breach in terms agreed to by the member state when they joined the European Union.

If also approved by national leaders, Hungary could face punitive measures.

"As of now there is no timeline" for the European Council to act, she said.

What is Hungary accused of?

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. It put up borders to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country and introduced a law which made it a criminal offence for lawyers and activists to help asylum seekers, under the banner of "facilitating illegal immigration".

But Judith Sargentini, who presented the report prepared by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, welcomed the outcome.

"Each state member of the European Union has the sovereign right to implement domestic reforms as it deems appropriate", it said in a statement.

The BBC Reality Check team has explained the Article 7 process in detail.

However, because this step has never been taken before, it is not clear what will happen next, or when. He added that a similar case involving Poland was being handled through the European Commission.

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What has the reaction been?

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, echoing Orban's longtime position that allowed him to win a third-consecutive term in April, called the vote "petty revenge" against Hungary for its tough anti-migrant policies. Macron has sought to take the lead in fighting nationalists including Orban and Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, and he has called himself the "main opponent" of the two politicians.

The vote represents a particular challenge for EPP's German head Manfred Weber since he announced his bid for the presidency of the EU's executive Commission next year.

"This is not the right way", Plenković said.

In a brief speech to parliament on Tuesday, Orban vowed that Hungary would resist any attempt to "blackmail" it into softening its anti-migrant stance, which he charged was the motive behind the vote.

"Individuals close to the government have been enriching themselves, their friends and family members at the expense of Hungarian and European taxpayers", she said.

Commenting on Tuesday's EP debate, he said he found it "hard to believe" that someone like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could sit through a "modern-day version of a communist show trial with people standing up and pointing the finger and shouting at him".

Amnesty International's expert on human rights in the EU, Berber Biala-Hettinga, hailed the vote as "historic".

Among the concerns raised at the European Parliament was the Hungarian government's actions against CEU.

Farage said the European Union - with the backing of USA financier George Soros "and people like that" - wanted to "break down" nation states and "change the entire identity of the entire continent".

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