Hungary PM defiant: EU to invoke Article 7

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, claimed his country was being condemned for choosing not to be a “country of migrants”, as he conceded that the European Parliament was set to trigger the EU’s most serious sanction against his government.

Background

Landlocked and lying approximately between latitudes 45° and 49° N and longitudes 16° and 23° E, Hungary shares a border to the north with Slovakia, to the northeast with Ukraine, to the east with Romania, to the south with Serbia (specifically, the Vojvodina region) and Croatia, to the southwest with Slovenia, and to the west with Austria.

At the end of World War I defeated Hungary lost 71 percent of its territory as a result of the Treaty of Trianon (1920). Hungarians, who know their country as Magyarország, “Land of Magyars,” are unique among the nations of Europe in that they speak a language that is not related to any other major European language

By accepting Catholicism in AD 1000, the Hungarians joined the Christianized nations of the West, but they still remained on the borderlands of that civilization. This made them eager to prove themselves and also defensive about lagging behind Western developments elsewhere. Their geographical position often forced them to fight various Eastern invaders, and, as a result, they viewed themselves as defenders of Western Christianity.

Analysis

Hungary's PM Viktor Orban has accused the EU of "insulting" his country, as its parliament began considering disciplinary action against Hungary.

Orbán stands accused of undermining the independence of its judiciary and media, waging a propaganda and legal war against the Central European University, founded by the philanthropist George Soros, and mistreating asylum seekers and refugees while limiting the functioning of non-governmental organisations who seek to aid them.

It proposes to ask the Council of Ministers to invoke Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty against Hungary to establish if it has violated fundamental EU values and norms – the first time that MEPs have done so against a member state, although the process has been initiated by the council against Poland.

Article 7 of the EU Treaty allows for the suspension of certain rights of a member state if "there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the values referred to in Article 2." Those values comprise "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived late to the proceedings before launching a blistering attack on the EU and Ms Sargentini's report.

He denounced it as an "abuse of power", and said it contained 37 "serious factual misrepresentations".

"You think you know better than Hungarians themselves", he said, and vowed that Hungary "will not accede to this blackmail".

“The report in front of you… insults the honour of the Hungarian nation,” Mr Orban said in an uncompromising speech. “You are going to denounce Hungary, which has been a member of the family of Christian European nations for thousands of years.”

MEPs are debating whether his right-wing government's policies on issues like migrants pose a threat to the EU.

Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini report comprehensively lists attacks on the media, minorities, and the rule of law, that represent "a clear breach of the values of our union.

Liberal MEP and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt attacked Mr Orban, saying he was not his country and that Hungary was "far more eternal than you are".

A committee of MEPs points to the Hungarian government's approach to migration - including a new law which criminalises lawyers and activists who help asylum seekers - as well as media, the courts and universities as proof.

The European Commission took the unprecedented step against Poland in December 2017, giving it three months to address concerns that its judicial reforms threatened the rule of law.

Counterpoint

Any move to impose sanctions on Hungary would require unanimity and backing of 2/3rd MEP`s among the EU`s 27 countries, which Poland and Hungary`s remaining allies is likely to block. If MEPs do decide to support the process, which could end up with Hungary being monitored by Brussels, it may be a very slow process.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the focus of most European leaders will be a fight for survival against populist movements and their leaders who would try to undermine the democratic ethos of the EU. We feel that contrary to sentiments shared by leaders like Orban, the EU will focus more on human rights and not Christian rights.