EU Parliament censures Hungary over prime minister's actions

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Although Brussels and Budapest have repeatedly clashed over immigration and refugee policy, the vote on Wednesday addressed broader concerns with the state of democracy and rule of law in Hungary.

Mitsotakis's party, New Democracy, is in the same conservative bloc in the European Parliament as Orban's, the European People's Party (EPP).

Since sweeping to power in 2010, Orban, once a campaigner against Hungary's Soviet Communist overlords, has used his parliamentary majority to pressure courts, media and non-government groups in ways his opponents say breach European Union rules.

"The decision was made in a fraudulent way, and contrary to relevant rules in European treaties".

The voting, however, does not mean immediate sanctions against Hungary, as the parliament passes the motion to the European Council, which has to unanimously decide on the punitive measures.

With Britain scheduled to leave the bloc altogether in March and Europeans voting in European Parliament elections in May, the rows over Hungary and Poland highlight tensions between nationalist and federalist camps.

"Individuals close to the government have been enriching themselves, their friends and family members at the expense of Hungarian and European taxpayers", she said.

Orban has faced global condemnation over Hungary's electoral system, violations of press freedoms, undermining the judiciary, Islamophobia and the mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and limits on the functioning of non-governmental organisations.

Full invocation of Article 7 to limit Hungary's voting power is expected to be hard, observers said, noting that such a vote requires full agreement from the European Union, and nationalist governments like Poland's are likely to block severe moves against Orban.

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Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as expected, claimed during the debate in Strasbourg, France, that Hungary was being attacked for its tough anti-immigration stance.

Mr Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal against the result because of the way the vote was tallied.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive body, launched the Article 7 proceedings against Poland over the erosion of judicial independence late past year.

"Do you Hungarians know better, they need inquired of the deputies of Orban".

"I have always been in favour of building bridges and I want to continue to do so, but yesterday [Tuesday] I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his European Union partners and address our concerns", Weber tweeted.

It was a "coward's way out" for Orban to pretend this was a criticism of Hungary or its people rather than its government, he said.

"Democracy in our member states and in our European Union can not exist without the rule of law", Timmermans said, and went on to list concerns about fundamental rights, corruption in Hungary and the treatment of migrants. "There is nothing to talk about".

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left, with disquiet also in the main centre-right parliamentary group, the European People's Party (EPP). "They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation", she said.

The group may now consider whether to suspend Orban's Fidesz party.

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