Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivered a fiery speech to European lawmakers in Strasbourg, before they began deliberations on suspending the country’s key EU rights due to his government’s policies.
Orban accused the “pro-migrant majority” of having “already made up their minds” to invoke the European Union Treaty’s Article 7 against Hungary, for its treatment of migrants and minorities, and the ruling party purported abuse of the law and suppression of media freedoms.
“Hungary will not accede to this blackmailing, Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration and – if needed – we will stand up to you,” said Orban, who was re-elected with an overwhelming majority in April.
“Hungary is going to be condemned because the Hungarian people have decided that this country is not going to be a country of migrants.”
Calling the proceedings an “insult” to his nation, Orban called Hungary the “defender of Europe” and spoke of its “different view on Christianity in Europe, the role of nations and national culture.”
“These differences cannot be a reason to brand any country and be excluded from joint decisions. We would never go as far as to silence those that do not agree with us,” said the Hungarian prime minister, as the majority of the chamber sat in silence, while his mostly Euroskeptic supporters cheered.
Article 7 is applied if an EU member state presents a “systemic threat” to the bloc’s values, which Hungary was adjudged to have done in a report by Green MEP Judith Sargentini earlier this year, and could result in Budapest losing its voting representation in various European bodies, becoming a pariah state in the union.
It requires for two-thirds of MEPs to vote in favor of accepting the report on Wednesday, after European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his annual State of the Union speech.
This is considered likely, but all the other EU nations would then need to agree unanimously to punish Budapest. Such consensus has never been achieved, meaning that Article 7 has never been implemented, and is not likely this time either.
Hungary has vowed to veto the application of similar sanctions to Poland, under its own investigation, and at least Warsaw will likely return the favor.
One setback for Orban, however, was the decision by Austria’s governing center-right party People’s Party to back the report. Hungary’s northern neighbor appeared to be on the verge of joining the Visegrad Group of four anti-migrant European states (which also includes Poland, Czechia and Slovakia) when Sebastian Kurz won the election last year.
Hungary: The ‘sick man’ of Central Europe
Ahead of this week’s expected vote in the European Parliament on the document condemning the Hungarian government, commentators are becoming increasingly emotional.
Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu
The report by Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini for LIBE, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament, could trigger a procedure under Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, if approved by two thirds of MEPs. This procedure could eventually result in depriving Hungary of her voting rights within the EU. However, such an outcome would require a unanimous vote within the European Council.
In a four-page essay released through MTI, the official Hungarian news agency, Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi accuses the pro-government press of misrepresenting the report as an attack on Hungary’s anti-immigration stance. He quotes passages from the document to prove that the author and the LIBE commission are concerned about the lack of guarantees of the impartiality of the judiciary and the independence of Hungary’s journalists as well. He argues that the report is meant to protect Hungary’s citizens against government excesses.
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