The European Parliament voted to trigger Article 7 (1) of the EU Treaty against the Hungarian government. It is the first time that the Parliament has taken this step against a national government. It comes after a sustained and systemic attack by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the press, universities, judiciary, NGOs and other independent institutions.
An overwhelming majority of the Parliament voted to launch article 7 procedures, considerably higher than the necessary two-thirds majority needed. This shows the level of support from across the political spectrum for finally taking real action against Viktor Orbán’s government.
S&D Group president Udo Bullmann said:
“Today the European Parliament has shown that is not afraid to act when the rule of law is under threat in a member state. For seven years, the Hungarian government under Viktor Orbán has attempted to crack down on independent organisations that provide checks and balances on their power. Today we have said that enough is enough. We will not watch Hungary slip into authoritarian rule.
S&D Group vice-president responsible for the report on Hungary, Josef Weidenholzer MEP, said:
“Viktor Orbán, we will not stand aside while you trample on the rights of ordinary Hungarians. We will not tolerate your corruption and nepotism. Every European citizen has the right to live in a functioning democracy and we will always fight to protect media freedom, the separation of powers, and an independent civil society in Hungary.
“The European Council must now act. For too long, national governments have turned a blind eye to the illiberal actions in Budapest. Today’s vote puts it firmly on their agenda ahead of a meeting of national leaders in Salzburg next week. We urge them to follow the Parliament’s lead and show that the EU can act when its fundamental values are under threat in a member state.”
The Party of European Socialists welcomes the vote in the European Parliament today which saw MEPs voting to trigger Article 7 (1) of the EU Treaty with 448 votes in favour and 197 against. The procedure is used in cases of serious breach of the values on which the Union is founded and could see Hungary’s voting rights in the Council suspended.
Commenting on the outcome of the vote today, PES President Sergei Stanishev said:
“We have successfully started a process and we would like to see it end with Hungary changing course and respecting fundamental democratic values and principles as enshrined in Article 2 TEU, rather than being sanctioned for not doing so.
The Council now needs to act on this call and show the resolute European leadership citizens have long expected them to.
I am glad that the Progressive family played a major role in this fight for European democracy. This is no small achievement as it faced the opposition of a number of nationalist MEPs and EPP loyalists. However, I was glad to see EPP Chair Manfred Weber changing his mind last night and voting for the motion, following pressure from within his own group and the media. If he had done so earlier, we might not be in the situation we see today in Hungary. It is regrettable that he chose to side with European values against Orbán only in the context of his bid to become EPP’s Common candidate for the 2019 elections.
Undoubtedly, Orbán will now play the victim, but in reality it is democratic principles and institutions which are the victim of his actions, and it is the citizens and their fundamental rights who will eventually suffer the consequences.
Fidesz’s European family, the EPP, still has the political responsibility to bring Orbán back to reason, while the Commission as guardian of the Treaties has the institutional one. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans is doing a great job in upholding rule of law and he should have all the political and institutional support for his efforts. The EU should be bold enough to resist the blackmailing game of the Hungarian government before the far-right nationalism and national egoism take over the entire Union.”