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European Union lawmakers vote to take measures against Hungary

15 September 2018

The statement from the government in Prague came after a European Parliament vote to sanction the country for flouting EU rules, Reuters reports.

"I have always been in favour of building bridges and I want to continue to do so but yesterday I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his European Union partners and address our concerns", he said on Twitter. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban (L) arrives for an EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on May 17, 2018.

"A different parliament and a different future is needed", he said, and predicted that next May's European Parliament election will see the end of what he called the "pro-immigration majority" in the assembly. Needing a two-thirds majority to pass, it was approved by 69.4 percent of the lawmakers.

And with Hungary's regional allies Poland and the Czech Republic offering to shield it against any EU sanctions, Orban's gamble is likely to pay off - although his Fidesz party may end up having to quit the conservative European People's Party (EPP), now the largest grouping in the Parliament. Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal the result.

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In an unprecedented move on Wednesday, more than two thirds of EP lawmakers voted to sanction Hungary due to concerns over Orban's pressuring of courts, the media and non-government groups and his refusal to take in migrants.

Orban addressed the European Union parliament on Tuesday in defence of his government, labeling the threat of censure as a form of "blackmail" and an insult to Hungary.

Orban has insisted that all of the criticism against his government is based on Hungary's tough anti-immigration policies, which include fences built in 2015 on Hungary's southern borders with Serbian and Croatia to divert the flow of migrants and very restrictive asylum rules.

The deputy head of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said on Tuesday he shared its authors' concerns about "fundamental rights, corruption, the treatment of Roma and the independence of the judiciary" in Hungary under Orban. But a party spokesman said the group was divided about 50-50.

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

The EPP's leader, Manfred Weber, said he would vote in favor of the motion against Orban's government, whose Fidesz party belongs to his grouping.

The partnership has created increasing uneasiness as leaders who portray themselves as defenders of liberal European values, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have found themselves covering for Orban as he cracks down on civil society and the free press.

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.

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"I have always been in favor of building bridges and I want to continue to do so, but yesterday (Tuesday) I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his European Union partners and address our concerns", Manfred tweeted.

European Union lawmakers vote to take measures against Hungary