Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

European Parliament vote to sanction Hungary is blackmail

European Parliament vote to sanction Hungary is blackmail

"Effectively they voted to support the behaviour of the government of Hungary, its abuse of basic democratic rights including judicial and media independence, its denial of refugee rights and its pandering to anti-semitism and Islamophobia".

The vote was the first time that the EU Parliament considered launching the Article 7 sanctions process against a member state.

But it was still unclear whether the 751-strong European Parliament would be able to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass the censure motion, which accuses Hungary of breaching core EU values.

For years, Orban had been able to deflect much of the worldwide condemnation thrown his way.

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.

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Italy's anti-imigration Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose League party has six lawmakers in the European body, said separately: "We will vote in defence of Orban".

There were 48 abstentions, so the 448 in favor exceeded the two-thirds needed only because it was based on 645 votes.

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.

Sargentini said she expected to be invited by the council to present her report and wants European parliament president Antonio Tajani to help her with that.

"Viktor Orban's government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash", Sargentini said. "They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties".

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"The decision was made in a fraudulent way, and contrary to relevant rules in European treaties". He has also waged a vociferous campaign against Hungarian-born, Jewish American billionaire philanthropist George Soros and the liberal causes he backs in formerly-communist eastern Europe.

The censure motion accuses Hungary of persistently breaching core European Union values.

Much of Orban's conservative European People's Party in the European Parliament which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats voted in favour of the motion to sanction Hungary over the rule of law.

Past year the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, launched similar steps under article seven against Poland over its alleged threat to the independence of the courts.

The deputy head of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said on Tuesday he shared its authors' concerns about "fundamental rights, corruption, the treatment of Roma and the independence of the judiciary" in Hungary under Orban. "There is nothing to talk about".

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Orban, who won a third consecutive term in power this year, has previously locked horns with European Union leaders over his country's hardline immigration policies and for clamping down on democratic institutions - including civic organizations, the media and academic institutions - as he consolidated his power. "They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation", said Berber Biala-Hettinga, an expert on human rights in the European Union, in a statement from the group. "Hungary has been condemned because they know that it would never accept pro-migrant policies".

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