Hungary PM slams EU sanctions threat

Viktor Orban speaks during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels Belgium

If the EU notices a "serious and persistent breach" of these values it can activate Article 7 and suspend membership rights, such as voting in the EU Council or access to the single market. This will become the basis for a vote in plenary on a "reasoned proposal", which will call on European Union countries to trigger the first phase of Article 7.

The European Parliament [official website] passed a resolution [text, PDF] Wednesday accusing Hungary of engaging in actions which have resulted in the "serious deterioration of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights".

Last month, the European Commission sent a "letter of formal notice" to Orban's government, which is a first step in legal action, over the education law believed to target the Soros-backed Central European University.

In addition, the Hungarian government called on to loosen its regulations against asylum-seekers and NGOs.

Hungary's foreign minister dismissed a European Parliament resolution condemning the country on Wednesday, saying that it amounted to a "new attack on Hungary by George Soros' network".

The resolution calls for the Hungarian government to repeal laws tightening rules against asylum seekers and nongovernmental organizations, and to reach an agreement with the USA authorities, making it possible for the Central European University to remain in Budapest as a free institution. The European Commission also said the same day it will move forward on an infringement procedure against Hungary concerning its asylum legislation.

The EPP has been divided over how to deal with Hungary, ruled by one of the group's member parties, Fidesz, which is led by prime minister Vitkor Orban.

It also demands creation of a procedure to examine whether the laws are in "serious breach of European Union values".

"Recent developments in Hungary have led to a serious deterioration in the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights which is testing the EU's ability to defend its founding values", the MEPs said.

EURACTIV exclusively reported last month that EPP was maturing to the idea of using Article 7 in the case of Hungary.

Sanctions would follow if the member states establish a breach - including the suspension of Hungary's voting rights in the Council of the EU.

The Council has to adopt a decision by a four-fifths majority after having received the EU Parliament's consent which requires a two-thirds majority of the votes cast and an absolute majority of MEPs. The Council needs to decide by unanimity and the Parliament needs to give its consent.

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