European Union parliament votes to stop Hungary’s ‘threat’ to democracy

The government has been accused of running into the arms of Hungary after alienating its European allies

Hungary's government will decide on Monday on legal steps it plans to take to challenge a European parliament ruling against the country for flouting democratic standards, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

Decision is now left to the 28 European Union member states, but the ultimate repercussion of suspension of voting rights appears unlikely with the assembly describing the move as "preventive", calculated to avoid penalties completely.

Requiring an absolute majority and 2/3 of votes cast, the legislative resolution was adopted with 448 in favor, 197 against and 48 abstaining.

All but three of the Conservative's 19 MEPs voted against censuring Orban over his attacks on media freedom, minority groups, migrants, political opponents and judicial independence.

When asked in a television show on Wednesday evening how Hungary would respond to concerns raised by the Members of European Parliament over CEU, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the university still "expects privileges", which would be hard for the country's legislators "to accept".

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left, with disquiet also in the main center-right parliamentary group, the European People's Party (EPP).

Agoston Mraz, director of Hungary's pro-government think-tank Nezopont, said Orban still did not want to leave the EPP. "The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU".

On Tuesday Weber said the European Union might need to consider launching the sanctions procedure, under Article 7.1 of the bloc's Lisbon Treaty, if Budapest did not address the criticisms.

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"This decision condemning Hungary and the Hungarian people was made because we Hungarians have demonstrated that migration is not a necessary process and that migration can be stopped", Szijjarto said in Budapest.

The lawmakers voted 448-197 in favor of a report recommending a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's European Union voting rights.

Despite the possibility of sanctions, Orban vowed to defy the European Parliament, saying "Hungary will not accede to this blackmailing. and if needed we will stand up to you".

Mr Orban has for years deflected much of the global condemnation of Hungary's electoral system, media freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum-seekers and refugees, and limits on the functioning of NGOs.

Mr Orban has also expressed his desire to remain within the EPP, which he said was "deeply divided" on the issue of migration.

The partnership has created increasing uneasiness as leaders who portray themselves as defenders of liberal European values, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have found themselves covering for Orban as he cracks down on civil society and the free press.

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.

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