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European Union parliament votes to punish Hungary for backsliding on democracy

European Union parliament votes to punish Hungary for backsliding on democracy

But the 197 votes cast against parliament's first bid to launch the punitive process of the EU treaty's Article 7 highlighted the substantial minority of European opinion who see Orban as a crusader for the rights of nation states and ethnic majorities against rules of civic behavior agreed in Brussels.

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. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban (L) arrives for an EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on May 17, 2018.

In a rejoinder, Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto described the move as the "petty revenge" of pro-immigration politicians. However, a unanimous vote is required to suspend Hungary's voting rights and launch sanctions.

"Actions aimed against member states serve only deepening divides in the EU, increasing citizens' current lack of confidence to European institutions".

There were 48 abstentions, so the 448 in favor exceeded the two-thirds needed only because it was based on 645 votes.

After the vote, MEPs welcomed the adoption of the report and Sargentini with a standing ovation.

Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal the result because of the way the vote was tallied. Recently, the European parliament announced plans to sanction Hungary because it poses a "systematic threat" to democracy.

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




"Viktor Orban's government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash", she said.

Following the passage of the law, which many in Hungary saw as part of the government's wider crackdown on dissent, the Budapest-based University began holding classes in the U.S. in partnership with New York's Bard College earlier this year.

However, Hungary has other supporters within the EU.

Dominant at home and a figurehead for populist and nationalist figures across Europe, Orban suffered a rare defeat Wednesday when the assembly in Strasbourg voted to take legal action against Hungary under Article Seven of the European Union's treaty. "We're fighting to make our position the majority", he said, adding that Fidesz wanted to steer the EPP back onto the Christian democratic path he said would preserve Europe's identity.

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left, with disquiet also in the main center-right parliamentary group, the European People's Party (EPP).

"Each state member of the European Union has the sovereign right to implement domestic reforms as it deems appropriate", it said in a statement.

Anti-Islam Dutch populist Geert Wilders tweeted: "Hungary is the example for all European Union countries and Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize".

The move saw some members of the European People's Party bloc - of which Orban's Fidesz movement is a member - vote against their ally in Budapest.