The European Parliament voted Wednesday to censure Hungary for pursuing policies that Brussels lawmakers say violate the bloc’s “core values.”
The decision triggers a disciplinary process under Article 7 of the EU charter that could include sanctions against the Hungarian government and, potentially, the loss of voting rights in the EU Council.
Wednesday’s vote, which passed 448-197 with 48 abstentions, escalates an ongoing political feud between Brussels and the conservative nationalist government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Under Orban’s leadership, Hungary has been at the vanguard of the rising populist-nationalist phenomenon that has swept across Europe in recent years in opposition to EU policies on immigration and multiculturalism.
Hungary was the first EU country to crack down on a surge of illegal immigration during the 2015 refugee crisis, closing its borders and rejecting Brussels’ demands to accept migrants. Orban explicitly defended Hungary’s rejection of EU immigration plans on grounds of cultural preservation, accusing Brussels of failing to protect Europe from Muslim “invaders.” (RELATED: Hungarian PM Slams ‘European Elite,’ Predicts Illiberal Shift In EU Leadership)
“We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite,” he told the German newspaper Bild in a Wednesday interview, translated here. Multiculturalism, he added, “is only an illusion.”
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, European Parliament member Judith Sargentini of Holland issued a report saying Hungary’s hardline immigration policies and its attacks on pro-migration non-governmental organizations pose a “systemic threat” to the EU’s fundamental principles. Sargentini’s report also raised concerns about Hungary’s restrictions on independent media and academic institutions.
The vote marks the first time the EU’s legislative body has moved to initiate Article 7 proceedings against a member state. The article was invoked by the European Commission — the EU’s executive branch — against Poland over its judicial reforms in 2017.
Under Article 7, a member state can be sanctioned when it violates European values of “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities,” according to Deutsche Welle.
Wednesday’s vote does not guarantee that Hungary will face sanctions from Brussels. The measure moves to a vote by leaders of the EU’s 28 member states, who must unanimously approve sanctions.
Hungary’s ideological ally Poland, which has also come under fire from Brussels, is unlikely to support sanctions against Orban’s government.
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