Lawmakers move against Hungary over rule of law

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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.

Orban on Tuesday attacked European lawmakers in a fiery speech at the parliamentary chambers in Strasbourg, France, saying, "Hungary is going to be condemned because the Hungarian people have decided that this country is not going to be a country of migrants".

The Hungarian prime minister received harsh criticism, even within his own political family.

Fidesz MEP Jozsef Szajer, a close advisor to Orban, called the EP's decision the "petty revenge" of pro-immigration politicians.

Philippe Dam, Human Rights Watch's advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia, says that now the EU Commission will have to put pressure on Hungary.

With Britain about to leave the bloc altogether in March and Europeans voting in European Parliament elections in May, the row over Hungary - and Poland, which faces a similar sanctions procedure launched by the executive European Commission in 2017 -highlights tensions between nationalist and federalist camps.

"Poland will vote against any possible sanctions to be imposed on Hungary within the European institutions", the ministry claimed.

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.

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Several non-governmental organizations targeted by the Orban government with restrictive rules - including a special tax on activities considered as promoting immigration and the criminalization of the aiding of asylum-seekers and refugees - also hailed the vote's outcome. The group of leftists and greens in the assembly said "Orban's authoritarian moves must be curbed". As in some other European Union countries, the centre-left has been largely marginalised.

Anti-Islam Dutch populist Geert Wilders tweeted: "Hungary is the example for all European Union countries and Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize".

Farage said the European Union - with the backing of USA financier George Soros "and people like that" - wanted to "break down" nation states and "change the entire identity of the entire continent".

Orban might have lost some key allies as EPP lawmakers said their caucus meeting showed many would vote in favour of Article 7.

"Each EU Member State has a sovereign right to carry out the internal reforms that it considers appropriate", the message said.

The parties of Kurz and Orban both belong to the biggest faction in the European Parliament, the conservative European People's Party (EPP), which also includes lawmakers from the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to sanction Hungary for neglecting norms on democracy, civil rights and corruption in a first bid to launch the punitive process of the EU treaty's Article 7.

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