‘Petty revenge’: Hungary blasts MEPs for supporting punitive measures against Budapest

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It remains far from clear whether the 751-strong European Parliament will be able to muster in Wednesday's vote the two-thirds majority needed to pass the censure motion, which accuses Hungary of persistently breaching core EU values.

"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.

A member of the European People's Party (EPP), Orban's right-wing Fidesz party could be left out in the cold as it faces the prospect of being thrown out of the EPP if the European Parliament decides to sanction Hungary.

Since sweeping to power in 2010, Orban, once a campaigner against Hungary's Soviet Communist overlords, has used his parliamentary majority to pressure courts, media and non-government groups in ways his opponents say breach European Union rules.

Speaking in front of the assembly on Tuesday, Orban said he would not bow to the EU's "blackmail" but stick to his policies.

Former Prime Minister and Maltese MEP Alfred Sant refused to vote on a censure motion against Hungary for undermining the European Union's core values, drawing parallels with the Maltese experience of the a year ago.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, who has been supervising Article 7 discussions with Poland, said he shared the findings in the parliamentary report. "If there is no movement in terms of substance, it will be hard for the Hungarian government".

For years, Orban has successfully deflected much of the worldwide condemnation about Hungary's electoral system, press freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees and limitations on the functioning of non-governmental organizations, but criticism has been growing even within the European People's Party, to which his Fidesz party belongs. It would also mark the first time Parliament has invoked Article 7, the European Union power created to curb human rights abuses.

Members of the European Parliament applaud Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini third right in green second row from top after members of the European Parliament after a vote in Strasbourg eastern France Wednesday Sept.12 2018. EU lawmakers have voted in
New Democracy to vote against Hungary in European Parliament | Kathimerini

The move means that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government could eventually lose its European Union voting rights, Deutsche Welle reported.

"The Hungarian people deserve better", Sargentini said.

Previous year the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, launched similar steps under article seven against Poland over its alleged threat to the independence of the courts.

Orban, leader of the Fidesz party, won reelection in April 2018 by a landslide, gaining a 2/3 majority in the Hungarian parliament after voters backed his anti-immigration platform, and entering his third consecutive term in office.

"I am so proud that my Hungary report has the support of the European Parliament, but this is foremost about the rights of Hungarian citizens", Sargentini wrote on Twitter after the vote.

The report said Orban's government had sought to increase its influence over judges and courts, was suppressing dissenting voices including in the media, and was responsible for widespread fraud and corruption in public projects.

Polish politician Michal Boni said a vote on article 7, the law that would suspend Hungary's voting rights, was needed to "pour cold water on hot populist heads".

Hungary adopted legislation in July that further restricts asylum claims and criminalizes "supporting and facilitating illegal immigration".

Freeland to meet Lighthizer in Washington Tuesday
She said the talks were at a point where discussing them face-to-face with the prime minister "is absolutely essential". Lighthizer is far more eager to dismantle this dispute-settlement provision.

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