European Union votes for disciplinary action against Hungary

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left as there is disquiet in the main centre right European People's Party, about his position despite the grouping including his Fidesz party

Brussels, September 12, 2018-The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed the vote by members of the European Parliament in favor of a resolution against Hungary for breaching EU values, and called on the bloc to keep up pressure on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's government.

The centre-right European People's Party, in which both Hungary's ruling Fidesz party and Orban's main political opponent in Europe, German chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) are members, has until now been seen as sheltering Orban from criticism.

In Budapest, Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said Fidesz is the strongest party within the EPP, but its views on migration are in a minority.

With elections for a new parliament in May 2019, the vote reflects growing pushback among traditional parties in Europe against the rise of populists, who oppose migration and are accused of undermining the rule of law.

The vote is a response to the actions of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has disparaged independent media, academics, the courts, minorities and refugees.

With 448 votes in favour, 197 against and 48 abstentions, the motion passed in the Strasbourg plenary session, in what is the first time the European legislature has triggered the so-called Article 7 procedure against an EU member state.

But in practice that is sure to be blocked by Orban's ally, the nationalist government in Poland that is locked in its own dispute with the European Union over undercutting the rule of law.

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.

She had urged colleagues not to let Hungary off the hook, declaring that Orban's rule "violates the values on which this union was built".

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It would also mark the first time Parliament has invoked Article 7, the European Union power created to curb human rights abuses.

The European parliament has voted in favour of taking disciplinary action on Hungary.

Mr Orban personally spoke to the parliament on Tuesday in defence of his country, labelling the threat of censure as a form of "blackmail" and an insult to Hungary.

"Hungary shall continue to defend its borders, stop illegal immigration and defend its rights - against you, too, if necessary", he said, drawing applause from the eurosceptic, far-right lawmakers in the assembly.

Several non-governmental organizations targeted by the Orban government with restrictive rules - including a special tax on activities considered as promoting immigration and the criminalization of the aiding of asylum-seekers and refugees - also hailed the vote's outcome.

Nearly 450 members voted in favor of the motion, 197 voted against, and 48 abstained.

"I am in complete agreement with the result", Juncker said. The legal service told parliamentary groups earlier this week that abstentions don't count as votes cast based on the treaty.

Orban has blamed Merkel for Europe's migration crisis, while the Hungarian leader was criticised for breaching global standards and rules on migration and treating asylum seekers harshly.

The EU's move received praise from human rights groups, including Amnesty International.

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