European Union parliament pushes Hungary sanctions over Orban laws

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Simon Mc Coy continues to deliver top moments on BBC news Television

It was the first time the European Union legislature had triggered disciplinary action against a member state, which could strip the Hungarian government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, of its European Union voting rights.

Losing voting rights in the European Council would ultimately hurt Hungary, rather than the government, but if the Article 7 procedure is launched it would be "Viktor Orbán's responsibility alone", Green opposition party LMP said.

The vote against Hungary is symbolic of the growing tug-of-war in Europe between humanitarian values and increasingly nationalistic ones.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses MEPs during a debate on the situation in Hungary at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2018.

Poland's foreign ministry has voiced "concern" after Eurodeputies on Wednesday backed a plan to trigger a punitive procedure against Hungary amid accusations of flouting European Union rules on democracy, civil rights and corruption. MEPs voted 448 in favour and 197 against, with 48 abstentions in Strasbourg on the report that required a two-thirds majority to pass.

Orban, who has been elected four times and now presides over what is effectively a one-party state, has been a thorn in the side of European Union leaders since he came back to office in 2010.

"Actions aimed against member states serve only deepening divides in the EU, increasing citizens' current lack of confidence to European institutions".

He also claimed that the vote involved "massive fraud" since abstentions weren't counted into the final tally, which made it easier to reach the needed majority.

In the case of Hungary, MEPs were concerned about a variety of issues, including the independence of Hungarian courts, the control of higher education institutions, news media issues, fundamental rights, and especially policies regarding refugees and asylum seekers.

Agoston Mraz, director of Hungary's pro-government think-tank Nezopont, said Orban still did not want to leave the EPP.

His typically feisty performance before EU lawmakers has boosted Orban's standing among nationalists at home and also among anti-immigrant parties that are expected to increae their presence in the next European Parliament (EP). "The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU".

Even EPP leader Mandred Weber, who earlier was supportive of Mr Orban and is seeking to become the European Commission president next year, said he had voted for triggering Article 7.

The vote amounts to a stunning political blow for Prime Minister Orban, who had told the parliament on Tuesday that a scathing report leading to the vote was an insult to Hungary's honour and people.

"This decision condemning Hungary and the Hungarian people was made because we Hungarians have demonstrated that migration in not a necessary process and that migration can be stopped", Szijjarto told reporters in Budapest on Wednesday.

In a brief speech to parliament on Tuesday, Orban vowed that Hungary would resist any attempt to "blackmail" it into softening its anti-migrant stance, which he charged was the motive behind the vote.

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