Orban Slams ‘EU Blackmail’ ahead of Vote to Punish Hungary for Violating Rule of Law

Orban Slams ‘EU Blackmail’ ahead of Vote to Punish Hungary for Violating Rule of Law

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban remained defiant of the EU as he slammed what he described as “abuse of power” in a European Parliament speech ahead of a vote on punishing Hungary for compromising the rule of law including by stripping it of its voting rights within the Union.

Since he retook power in Hungary in 2010, Orban has cracked down on media freedom, the independence of the judiciary, and NGOs, in what have been widely criticized as authoritarian measures.

At the same time, he has rejected the policy of accepting in the EU large numbers of migrants from the Middle East spearheaded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 at the height of the Syrian migrant crisis.

This stance has given Orban reasons to allege that he is the target of constant EU criticism because of the opposition to migration policies, rather than any other abuses damaging democracy, breaking the rule of law, and violating EU principles.

OnWednesday, September 12, 2018, the European Parliament is going to vote on whether to recommend to the European Council disciplinary measures under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, including the possibility of stripping Hungary of its voting rights.

Article 7 provides for suspending a member state’s rights if “there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the values referred to in Article 2”, namely, “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”

“[Orban has brought about] structural erosion of the rule of law,” said MEP Judith Sargentini, who initiated the debate to punish Hungary under Article 7.

“Civil society is the very fabric of democratic society and is threatened by measures taken by the Hungarian government,” stated Frans Timmermans, first Vice President of the European Commission during the debate.

“[Hungary must decide] between nationalism and Europe,” declared Manfred Weber, the German leader of the parliamentary group of the rightist European People’s Party, who has recently made clear his bid to become the next President of the European Commission in 2019.

Hungary’s leader Viktor Orban, however, staged a strong-worded response to the criticism of his actions, seeking to portray EU pressure as trying to stifle policies rather than punish violations.

“Hungary shall not bow to blackmail,” declared the leader of the right-wing Fidesz party, which was re-elected with a landslide majority last April.

“Hungary shall continue to defend its borders, stop illegal immigration and defend its rights – against you, too, if necessary,” he said.

“I stand here in front of you and I defend my country because, for Hungarians, liberty, democracy, independence and Europe are matters of honor,” Orban stated.

“What you are doing here is a slap in the face of the Union… We have defended Hungary, and we have defended Europe… We have a different picture about the nature of Christianity in Europe and the role of nations and cultures in our country,” he concluded.

At least 376 MEPs and two-thirds of the cast votes are needed for the European Parliament to make Hungary the first EU member state ever to be recommended for punitive measures under Article 7.

If that happens, the final decision will go the national leaders of the EU member states in the European Council. However, a decision to strip Hungary of voting rights would likely be blocked by Poland whose conservative government is under criticism for undermining the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

(Banner image: Video grab from EP)

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