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Hungary to take legal steps against critical European Union ruling - PM Orban

15 September 2018

Since sweeping to power in 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, once a campaigner against Hungary's Soviet Communist overlords, has used his parliamentary majority to pressure courts, media and non-government groups.

As a reminder, on 12 September the European Parliament for the first time in history the EU approved the introduction of penalty procedures against member country Hungary.

Delivering more than the two-thirds majority required as many of Orban's allies in the conservative party deserted him, the vote, however, has little chance of ending up with the ultimate penalty of Hungary being suspended from voting in the European Union - if nothing else, its Polish ally would veto that. Recently, the European parliament announced plans to sanction Hungary because it poses a "systematic threat" to democracy.

"As of now there is no timeline" for the European Council to act, she said.

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.

Judith Sargentini, who presented the report prepared by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, called it "a historic result for Hungarian and for European citizens".

When asked for comment, a Hungarian government representative cited Palkovics' interview from June in which he had said they are "currently examining whether actual training is being performed by the CEU in the United States with the involvement of education experts".

Opposition parties hailed the EP's decision as a win for democracy that rejected the Hungarian government's illiberal policies.

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Bringing the Article 7 procedure to the final stage would require the unanimous support of all other European Union member states, which analysts say is unlikely. Similarly, the stance being taken by the Orban government is also being echoed in other countries such as Italy.

"Today's European Parliament decision was nothing else but a petty revenge of pro-immigration politicians against Hungary", Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference in Budapest. The EU country concerned does not take part in either vote.

Critics say Hungary's electoral system favors the governing parties; media freedoms and judicial independence are dwindling; corruption and the enrichment of Orban allies with European Union and state funds are on the rise; asylum seekers and refugees are mistreated; and there are efforts to limit the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

"The agreement of CEU with another USA university does not mean that there is a school there", Szijjarto said, referring to a controversial amendment made in the education law past year, which required the university to also offer courses in the United States.

"This is not the right way", Plenković said.

The European Parliament launched the action, citing the concern of a "serious breach of European values".

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that he would have voted for the measure if he was an MEP.

Hungary to take legal steps against critical European Union ruling - PM Orban