Poland says it will block any European Union sanctions against Hungary

Clay Curtis
September 15, 2018

Orban on Tuesday attacked European lawmakers in a fiery speech at the parliamentary chambers in Strasbourg, France, saying, "Hungary is going to be condemned because the Hungarian people have decided that this country is not going to be a country of migrants".

"This decision condemning Hungary and the Hungarian people was made because we Hungarians have demonstrated that migration in not a necessary process and that migration can be stopped", Szijjarto told reporters in Budapest. He also decried the omission of abstentions in the final tally which helped attain the needed majority in the vote.

The motion was passed with 448 votes for and 197 against, with 48 abstentions.

The deputy head of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said on Tuesday he shared its authors' concerns about "fundamental rights, corruption, the treatment of Roma and the independence of the judiciary" in Hungary under Orban.

Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, who spearheaded the vote to enact Article 7 procedures, decried the CEU's "legal limbo" in a report (PDF) that detailed alleged violations of the EU's democratic principles.

"If there is a serious problem, and to some extent we do understand and share some concerns mentioned in the report, the right way would be to go through the European Commission and not the European Parliament, which is why we voted the way we did", Plenković said.

She had urged colleagues not to let Hungary off the hook, declaring that Orban's eight-year rule "violates the values on which this union was built".

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"We welcome the European Parliament's decision to defend the rule of law and confront the Hungarian government's attempts to shut down civil society and independent voices in the media and academia", said Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute.

And with Hungary's regional allies Poland and the Czech Republic offering to shield it against any EU sanctions, Orban's gamble is likely to pay off - although his Fidesz party may end up having to quit the conservative European People's Party (EPP), now the largest grouping in the Parliament. The report accuses the Hungarian government of eroding democracy and failing to uphold fundamental European Union values.

Orban's critics and opponents were elated by the outcome.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which offers legal aid to asylum seekers and refugees and has been a frequent target of Orban's criticism, said that the EU vote "has made it clear that illiberal democracy is against the core values of the European Union".

Orban, who has been elected four times and now presides over what is effectively a one-party state, has been a thorn in the side of European Union leaders since he came back to office in 2010. The EU country concerned does not take part in either vote. "There is nothing to talk about".

Since coming to power, Mr Orban's government has taken a hardline stance against immigration.

Orban, whose right-wing Fidesz party has governed Hungary since 2010 and was re-elected in April for a third consecutive term on a strongly anti-immigrant platform, is playing a long-term political game in Europe.

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