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The European Union voted to punish Hungary over violation of its core values. The vote that passed on a 448 to 197 with 48 abstentions, leaves the Eastern European country open to disciplinary measures that may include revocation of voting rights.
Hungary has constantly been on the warpath with Brussels with its populist Prime Minister, Victor Orban, a staunch opponent of migrant policies adopted by the Union. Mr. Orban’s government introduced a law that criminalised representation of asylum seekers by lawyers and activists with accusations of silencing independent media and curtailing academic freedom also been levelled against him.
With reports of courts and the electoral system pressured and corruption being rife in the country, the move by Brussels seems to be an attempt to reassert values it feels are threatened by Hungary’s current government. Judith Sargentini, the Dutch Green MEP who led the vote, lauded the move as a positive sign from the European parliament, a demand of accountability against an assault on European values by Hungary. The President of the European Commission also voiced his support on Twitter, affirming he was “in harmony” with the decision.
In a rejoinder, Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjarto described the move as the “petty revenge” of pro-immigration politicians. He also decried the omission of abstentions in the final tally which helped attain the needed majority in the vote. Mr. Obran on his part had addressed the assembly on Tuesday, labelling the spectre of the vote as blackmail and insulting to Budapest and terming the report by Miss Judith an “abuse of power” with factual inaccuracies.
The move is historic, as Article 7 has never been triggered before and it lays the groundwork for action against other states the Union feels have flaunted rules. An obvious candidate is Poland who are facing the same fate with a report brought against them by the European Commission. In a show of solidarity Budapest vowed to veto any effort to strip Poland of its voting rights, with Poland returning the favour by promising to impede additional attempts at action against Hungary.
Decision is now left to the 28 EU member states, but the ultimate repercussion of suspension of voting rights appears unlikely with the assembly describing the move as “preventive”, calculated to avoid penalties completely.
The decision was greeted with approval in some quarters with Amnesty International’s expert on EU human rights calling the decision “historic”. Others were less enthusiastic, with Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders describing Mr. Orban as “a hero who deserves a Nobel Prize” for standing up to the European Union.

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