The European Union parliament has overwhelmingly voted to enact Article 7 procedures against Hungary which could see the country stripped of its voting rights and face potential sanctions.
The European Parliament voted for the proposal with 448 votes for, 197 against, and 48 abstentions following a report from Dutch Green Party MEP Judith Sargentini which accused the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of corruption and abuse of migrants, as well as claiming the government had interfered with press and academic freedoms, Deutsche Welle reports.
The invocation of Article 7 is the first time in the history of the political bloc that the EU parliament has voted in favour of potential sanctions on a member state. Last year, Poland was threatened with Article 7 sanctions following judicial reforms and proceedings were begun by the EU Commission.
While the vote potentially could lead to sanctions and see Hungary stripped of voting rights, the next step for the process will be a vote by each member state’s government that requires a unanimous decision.
Following the support Hungary received from Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and the historic support Prime Minister Orbán has had from the Polish government, it is unlikely the member states will vote unanimously.
Orban Proclaims Defiance Ahead of European Parliament Sanctions Vote https://t.co/o9DmKjgSgO
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 12, 2018
The most significant result of the vote has been the splitting of the European People’s Party (EPP) on the issue, the parliamentary group in the EU parliament of which Orbán’s Fidesz party is a member. While some members of the EPP supported Orbán and voted against the sanctions, many, including Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, publicly declared their support for enacting Article 7.
In an impassioned speech the day before the vote, Orbán slammed the EU as undemocratic saying: “What you are saying is nothing less than that the Hungarian people cannot be trusted to decide what is in their best interests. What you believe is that you know better what the Hungarian people want.”
While Orbán has been condemned by establishment conservatives like Chancellor Kurz, populists like Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache have defended Hungary with Mr Strache even inviting Orbán to leave the EPP and form a new parliamentary group.
Dutch firebrand populist Geert Wilders, also a supporter of Orbán, reacted to the vote on Twitter saying: “Hungary is the example for all EU countries and Orbán is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize. He closed the borders for Islamic fortune seekers. He protects his citizens against terror and defends the identity of his country,” and called the EU a “fraud”.
FPÖ MEP Harald Vilimsky slammed the political establishment calling the supporters of the vote an “ominous alliance of the Left, Greens, Socialists, Communists, Liberals and, unfortunately, the European People’s Party”, and adding: “One can only apologise to the Hungarian people.”