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European Union parliament votes to punish Hungary over 'breaches' of core values

15 September 2018

The Czech government stands behind Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Thursday.

Poland's foreign ministry has voiced "concern" after Eurodeputies on Wednesday backed a plan to trigger a punitive procedure against Hungary amid accusations of flouting European Union rules on democracy, civil rights and corruption.

A breach of EU values justifies a reaction at EU level and this is what the procedure under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union aims to achieve.

The vote takes the first steps under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, known by some in Brussels as the "nuclear option", which could ultimately strip Hungary of its EU voting rights.

Hungary has promoted Moscow's interests within the European Union, repeatedly calling for the ending of economic sanctions imposed after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

"Actions aimed against member states serve only deepening divides in the EU, increasing citizens' current lack of confidence to European institutions".

Orban has insisted that all of the criticism against his government is based on Hungary's tough anti-immigration policies, which include fences built in 2015 on Hungary's southern borders with Serbian and Croatia to divert the flow of migrants and very restrictive asylum rules.

Dutch Greens MEP Judith Sargentini, who spearheaded the vote, smiled broadly and breathed a sigh of relief before embracing her supporters in parliament in the French city of Strasbourg.

Orban on Tuesday attacked European lawmakers in a fiery speech at the parliamentary chambers in Strasbourg, France, saying, "Hungary is going to be condemned because the Hungarian people have decided that this country is not going to be a country of migrants".

His Fidesz party gained a 2/3 majority in the Hungarian parliament after voters backed his anti-immigration platform, and Orban himself won his third consecutive term as prime minister. Similarly, the stance being taken by the Orban government is also being echoed in other countries such as Italy. They strongly deny it was to secure Hungary's support in the Brexit process or out of admiration for the country's leader.

Poland is also facing disciplinary proceedings, launched by the European Commission in December previous year.

His typically feisty performance before EU lawmakers has boosted Orban's standing among nationalists at home and also among anti-immigrant parties that are expected to increae their presence in the next European Parliament (EP).

Anti-Islam Dutch populist Geert Wilders tweeted: "Hungary is the example for all European Union countries and Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize".

"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", she said.

Rule of law is a key principle in democratic states. The message to government is clear: undermining and violating basic rights and values can not go unpunished in Europe, Socialist MEP Istvan Ujhelyi said.

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

European Union parliament votes to punish Hungary over 'breaches' of core values