MEPs back sanctions against Viktor Orban's Hungary over migrant policy

MEPs back sanctions against Viktor Orban's Hungary over migrant policy

The vote on whether to move further with what is dubbed "the nuclear option", which may ultimately lead to Hungary losing its say in the European Council, took place in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

"All my solidarity. No to sanctions and to trials of freely elected governments", read the post by Salvini, who is also Italy's Deputy Prime Minister.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told ORF television on Monday that his Austrian People's Party - like Fidesz, a member of the EPP, the biggest and most powerful party group in the assembly - would vote in favor of opening Article 7 proceedings against Hungary.

It was the first move of its kind in the European Union against a member state, garnering two-thirds of the votes.

MEPs will vote Wednesday on whether to call on member states to trigger Article 7 measures, created to prevent a serious breach of European values.

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"Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration and defend its rights", Orban said, accusing European Union elites of wanting to punish Budapest for its anti-migrant stance.

If the resolution is adopted, it will be the first time that the European Parliament takes the initiative for such a procedure, though it has backed an Article 7 action taken against Poland, triggered in December 2017 by the European Commission.

Defending his country in a speech on Tuesday, Orban hit out at a report commissioned by the European Parliament that accused Hungary's government of corruption, undermining democracy, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression, and the rights of migrants, refugees and minorities - calling it "blackmail".

The 197 votes cast against the parliament's first bid to launch the punitive process of the EU treaty's Article 7 also highlighted the substantial minority of European opinion who see Orban as a crusader for the rights of nation states and ethnic majorities against rules of civic behavior agreed in Brussels.

The move means that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government could eventually lose its European Union voting rights, Deutsche Welle reported. The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, launched Article 7 proceedings against Poland past year over its judicial reforms. "The Hungarian people deserve better".

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Judith Sargentini, the Dutch Greens lawmaker who steered the proposal through, said after the historic vote: "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".

But a party spokesman said the group was divided about 50-50.

Orban, who was re-elected in April to his third consecutive term in office, fourth overall, also said Tuesday that he expected lawmakers to approve the motion with the support of some EPP lawmakers.

After the vote, Sargentini thanked her colleagues for standing up "for the protection of democracy and the rule of law, above their interest in party politics".

Fidesz claims that the "pro-migration majority" in the EP is preparing to launch a last and desperate attack on Hungary to take revenge on the country for refusing to take in migrants.

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"We are fighting for an EP, European Commission and EPP in which anti-migration politicians are in the majority", Szijjarto said.

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