Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

In Unprecedented Vote, European Union Decides to Punish Hungary for 'Undemocratic Actions'

In Unprecedented Vote, European Union Decides to Punish Hungary for 'Undemocratic Actions'

The European Parliament on Wednesday launched an action that could unleash unprecedented political sanctions against Viktor Orban's populist Hungarian government for posing a "systemic threat" to the EU's founding values.

If preventative measures do not work, or the breach has already occurred, Article 7 (2) can put sanctions in place, including the stripping of voting rights in the European Council and other EU bodies.

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.

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Even as the European Parliament moves to punish Hungary for its violation of EU's core values, a defiant Hungarian government has said its stand on George Soros-funded Central European University (CEU) has not changed.

European lawmakers voted Wednesday to initiate sanctions proceedings against the Hungarian government for what they said was backsliding on democracy, an extraordinary censure for a nation that was once a beacon of post-Communist transformation.

"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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The move saw some members of the European People's Party bloc - of which Orban's Fidesz movement is a member - vote against their ally in Budapest.

The Conservative party has been criticised by Jewish community leaders after its members of the European Parliament tried to block action against Hungary's far-right government.

And with Hungary's regional allies Poland and the Czech Republic offering to shield it against any EU sanctions, Orban's gamble is likely to pay off - although his Fidesz party may end up having to quit the conservative European People's Party (EPP), now the largest grouping in the Parliament. Critics say Hungary's electoral system favors the governing parties; media freedoms and judicial independence are dwindling; corruption and the enrichment of Orban allies with European Union and state funds are on the rise; asylum seekers and refugees are mistreated; and there are efforts to limit the activities of nongovernmental organizations. It is the first time that the Parliament has taken this step against a national government. Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration, " he said, "and if needed we will stand up to you". "The Hungarian people deserve better". "I have always been in favour of building bridges and I want to continue to do so, but yesterday [Tuesday] I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his European Union partners and address our concerns", Mr Manfred tweeted. The vote comes nine months after the European Commission used its power to launch the same process against Poland.

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Mr Orban has also expressed his desire to remain within the EPP, which he said was "deeply divided" on the issue of migration.

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