EU lawmakers move against Hungary over rule of law

EU Parliament to Debate Possible Sanctions Against Hungary

But the vote was still hard to call.

If the so-called Article 7 procedure passes, it would set in motion a process that could lead to sanctions such as a suspension of Hungary's voting rights in the EU.

The censure motion accuses Hungary of persistently breaching core European Union values. If fully implemented, it could deprive Hungary of voting rights in the European Council. This marks the first time the European Parliament has taken that step, though Poland faced similar action from the European Commission previous year.

The European Parliament will vote next week on a proposal to trigger Article 7 against Hungary.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, who has been supervising Article 7 discussions with Poland, said he shared the findings in the parliamentary report. Rapporteur Judith Sargentini had to start them again when very late was the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

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These were dubbed the "Stop Soros" laws after liberal Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros, who is accused without evidence by Orban's government of orchestrating migration to Europe.

The report was approved with 448 votes in favour, 197 against and 48 abstentions.

He also said Hungary would seek legal ways to challenge the ruling as abstaining votes were not counted, and this, he said, changed the outcome of the vote. "The Hungarian people deserve better. They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties".

"This is a historic result for Hungarian citizens and for European citizens everywhere, that the European Parliament has voted by a large majority to stand up for the values we all hold dear", Sargentini said.

The Commission has preferred to pressure Budapest through standard legal powers, but the head of the European Union executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, also an EPP member, said he would have voted for the move if he were a lawmaker. If national leaders also support the motion, Hungary could face sanctions and be stripped of voting rights.

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The vote was based on a report that voiced concerns about judicial independence, corruption, freedom of expression, academic freedom, religious freedom, and the rights of minorities and refugees under eight years of Orban rule.

Dutch lawmaker Sophie in 't Veld urged the EU to consider cutting generous subsidies to Hungary, asking: "Why are we giving Mr Orban 87 million euros a week in order to destroy the European Union?"

Orban, whose far firebrand right populism and Eurosceptic policies have had him at loggerheads with Brussels for years, recently introduced a series of laws that limited the independence of the judiciary and severely curtailed the independence of Hungary's Central Bank and largely silenced the press. "There is nothing to talk about". "They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation", said Berber Biala-Hettinga, Amnesty International's expert on human rights in the EU.

A group of United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday expressed concern [press release] regarding Hungary's new immigration measures.

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