Hungary to take legal steps against critical European Union ruling - PM Orban


The EU has voted to launch action against the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban for allegedly undermining the bloc's democratic values and rule of law. However, the vote has little chance of ending up with the ultimate penalty of Hungary being suspended from voting in the EU.

The vote against Hungary is symbolic of the growing tug-of-war in Europe between humanitarian values and increasingly nationalistic ones.

Since sweeping to power in 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, once a campaigner against Hungary's Soviet Communist overlords, has used his parliamentary majority to pressure courts, media and non-government groups.

Reuters quoted him as saying in the same interview that the Hungarian government will on Monday decide on the legal steps it will take to counter the European Parliament's decision to launch a punitive procedure against Budapest for disparaging democratic EU standards.

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.

He also claimed that the vote involved "massive fraud" since abstentions weren't counted into the final tally, which made it easier to reach the needed majority.

His typically feisty performance before EU lawmakers has boosted Orban's standing among nationalists at home and also among anti-immigrant parties that are expected to increae their presence in the next European Parliament (EP).

Orban said he expects a "serious legal debate" regarding this decision.

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"You think that you know the needs of the Hungarian people better than the Hungarian people themselves".

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.

Amnesty International's expert on human rights in the EU, Berber Biala-Hettinga, said the European Parliament had "rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU".

A breach of EU values justifies a reaction at EU level and this is what the procedure under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union aims to achieve.

The decision creates head winds for Orban's ambitious quest to remake the continent in his model of "illiberal democracy" - a bloc that would be closer to Russian Federation, less open to migration, and less concerned about independent judiciaries, a free press, and minority rights.

Most British Conservative MEPs supported the Hungarian government, arguing that the European Union had intruded into purely national matters.

When asked if Fidesz would stay in the EPP, he said it has become clear that the EPP is seriously divided on the issue of migration.

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.