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EU parliament votes to stop Hungary's 'threat' to democracy

EU parliament votes to stop Hungary's 'threat' to democracy”

Members of the European Parliament have voted overwhelmingly to take action against Hungary, accusing Viktor Orban's government of a "systemic threat" to democracy and rule of law.

On Wednesday the European Parliament voted 448-197 in favor of a report recommending the launch of a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's EU voting rights.

There is disquiet in the main centre right parliamentary group, the European People's Party (EPP), about his position, despite it including his Fidesz party.

Last December, Article 7 was triggered against Poland, marking the first time the union used its 'nuclear option.' Proceedings were opened over controversial judiciary reform in the country which condemned the EU Parliament's decision as "politically motivated".

It is the first time in EU history that the European Parliament has initiated and approved such a motion, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass and was approved by 69.4% of MEPs.

Despite the criticism, Orban said he was "readying to support the EPP" in next year's European Parliament elections.

The EPP group, the largest in the parliament, on Tuesday evening, held a meeting with Orban, after which their leader, Manfred Weber announced he would vote in favour of launching the procedure.

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

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

He has also led opposition to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others who want Europe to take in more Muslim refugees. He has also waged a vociferous campaign against Hungarian-born, Jewish American billionaire philanthropist George Soros and the liberal causes he backs in formerly-communist eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, Orban said his country was being targeted for choosing not to be "a country of migrants" as he dismissed charges of corruption.

The vote has, however, exposed a deepening rift inside the EPP, the political home of Orban's Fidesz party. "Now it is up to European leaders to take responsibility and stop watching from the sidelines as the rule of law is destroyed in Hungary".

French President Emmanuel Macron, an outspoken defender of European Union values, has urged the EPP to clarify its stance, saying it could not back both Merkel and Orban at the same time.

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 previous year.

An immigration hard-liner, Orban has put pressure on courts, media and non-government groups since coming to power in 2010.

The spokesman added: "We place great value on the importance of the rule of law".

The German MEP now serves as the head of the center-right EPP in the European Parliament.



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