Hungary’s Orban vows to defy European Union pressure ahead of unprecedented vote

Opposition to Orban's vision does not just come from the left as there is disquiet in the main centre right European People's Party, about his position despite the grouping including his Fidesz party

"Success! The European Parliament has set an extremely important precedent after voting in favour of Article 7 that puts in motion infringement procedures against Hungary for failing to respect fundamental EU values".

The vote comes nine months after the European Commission used its power to launch the same process against Poland.

The vast majority of MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday voted to pursue disciplinary action against the Hungarian government over alleged breaches of the EU's core values.

If approved, the motion would go to the EU's national leaders, theoretically opening the way for sanctions such as a suspension of Hungary's voting rights in the bloc. "The inconvenient truth is that under these circumstances, it would be impossible today, Mr. Orban, that Hungary can join the European Union".

For years, Orban has successfully deflected much of the global condemnation about Hungary's electoral system, media freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum-seekers and refugees and limitations on the functioning of non-governmental organizations, but criticism has been growing even within the European People's Party, to which his Fidesz party belongs.

"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".

"We don't see these people as Muslim refugees".

The Commission has preferred to pressure Budapest through standard legal powers, but the head of the European Union executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, also an EPP member, said he would have voted for the move if he were a lawmaker.

On Monday the leader of Austria's far-right party, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, said he would "gladly" invite Orban's party into a common bloc, and Italy's new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has also expressed admiration for Orban. "We should not let Europe slide back to the past".

Aside from its anti-immigrant stance, Orban's government is also accused of silencing independent media and academia, removing independent judges, cracking down on organisations helping homeless people, migrants or disadvantaged groups, such as Roma, and condoning government corruption. Although Brussels and Budapest have repeatedly clashed over immigration and refugee policy, the vote on Wednesday addressed broader concerns with the state of democracy and rule of law in Hungary.

The motion was the first time ever the European legislature triggered the procedure against an EU member state.

Weber said the EPP would decide later Tuesday whether to support the Article 7 action.

"A resounding majority of MEPs today rejected and condemned the retrograde policies of the Hungarian government, which are taking Hungary away from the path of shared European Union values".

"Our perspective is something that would help the EPP remain the strongest political community or group in the European Parliament", Kovacs said. The group of leftists and greens in the assembly said "Orban's authoritarian moves must be curbed".

"We believe that there can be no compromises on the rule of law and democracy", Kurz told ORF television.

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