MEPs vote in favour of tough action against Hungary

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"All my solidarity. No to sanctions and to trials of freely elected governments", read the post by Salvini, who is also Italy's Deputy Prime Minister.

The parties of Kurz and Orban both belong to the biggest faction in the European Parliament, the conservative European People's Party (EPP), which also includes lawmakers from the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In a draft resolution approved by five European Parliament committees before passing to the full plenary, MEPs expressed concern for a number of European values - enshrined in the European treaties ratified by all member states upon joining - that have been allegedly under attack in Hungary.

It's the first time Article 7 has been triggered against a member state, just the start of a long process which could lead to Hungary's voting rights being suspended.

Speaking to European lawmakers on Tuesday, Orban described the vote as an act of revenge against Hungary for refusing to take in refugees under an EU-wide resettlement quota scheme.

"Whatever decision you make, Hungary will not give in to extortion, Hungary will defend its borders, will stop illegal migration and will protect its rights, if needed, from you, too".

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It is the first time that the Parliament has taken this step against a national government.

The official argued that the votes of those who abstained were not taken into account, which swung the outcome of the voting.

Mr Orban has for years faced global condemnation over Hungary's electoral system, media freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and limits on the functioning of non-governmental organisations. It would also mark the first time Parliament has invoked Article 7, the European Union power created to curb human rights abuses.

"Hungary is going to be condemned because the Hungarian people have decided that this country is not going to be a country of migrants", Orban said, before launching a searing attack on the European Union and the report.

"You say no more than the Hungarian people cannot decide for themselves what is in their own interest".

This procedure was launched by the European Commission against Poland in December a year ago.

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The leader of the EPP Group, Manfred Weber, said Article 7 that could lead to Hungary losing its European Union voting rights should be triggered against Hungary if Orban fails to reverse course.

"I have nothing to compromise about since the questions they objected to were decided by the Hungarian people", Orban said Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, after the debate in the European Parliament on the report on Hungary.

"To say that criticizing laws, criticizing the government would amount to criticizing a nation or a people, frankly speaking Mr. Orban, that's the coward's way out", Timmermans said near the end of the debate.

Orban, leader of the Fidesz party, won reelection in April 2018 by a landslide, gaining a 2/3 majority in the Hungarian parliament after voters backed his anti-immigration platform, and entering his third consecutive term in office.

After the vote, Sargentini thanked her colleagues for standing up "for the protection of democracy and the rule of law, above their interest in party politics".

The group may now consider whether to suspend Orban's Fidesz party.

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