Monday

20th Jan 2020

Liberal MEPs refuse to back down on Orban

  • Orban has demised previous EP resolutions as anti-Hungarian politicking (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Liberal MEPs will try to revive plans to stress-test Hungary’s democratic standards, after being voted down, including by socialist deputies, on Monday.

“We don’t want to give up so easily,” Cecilia Wikstroem, Swedish liberal MEP, told EUobserver on Wednesday (7 October).

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She said her Alde group, at its internal meeting, decided to again call on the civil liberties committee to trigger the so-called Article 7 procedure against Hungary.

She added the new vote could take place next week.

The EU treaty’s Article 7 allows the European Parliament, the European Commission, or one third or more of member states to launch a commission enquiry on whether a member state is in “serious and persistent breach” of EU values.

The procedure could, in its final stage, lead to EU Council voting sanctions.

The Alde campaign comes amid a crackdown on free speech, judicial independence, and refugee rights under Hungary’s right-wing PM, Viktor Orban.

But the centre-left S&D group, in a preparatory EP meeting on Monday, sided with Orban’s EPP group to quash the proposal, leaving the liberals fuming.

The EPP and socialists instead supported an S&D idea, which notes the EP, in June, already asked the commission to look into Hungary, and which demands a response.

The idea is to lead to an oral question to the commission at the end of October.

Love lost

But Alde’s Wikstroem ridiculed the centre-left position.

“We have asked the commission to do this several times, and when they don’t come back to us, it means they have done nothing. This just a way to postpone the issue,” she said.

“What is happening in Hungary is completely unheard of in Europe”.

She cited a new law that allows police to enter people’s homes without a warrant to hunt for irregular migrants.

“We haven’t seen such things since the second world war”, she said, calling the S&D-EPP decision “a slap in the face for everyone who thinks something is wrong with Hungarian democracy, who believes in the rule of law”.

Birgit Sippel, a German MEP and the S&D’s civil liberties coordinator, told EUobserver the group agrees with Alde in principle, but said the Liberals have failed to make their case.

“It is a very sensitive issue and you need a majority in the parliament for a strong political action. You have to prepare it very well, and that hasn’t happened”, she said, adding: “If you don’t have a majority, Orban will laugh at this.”

Sippel said that when the commission answers the EP’s question, MEPs can come back to the issue.

“Then we have meat in our hands,” she said, referring to political ammunition for the launch of Article 7.

Since Orban took power in 2010, the EP adopted four resolutions that expressed concern over Hungary - all of which supported by both socialists and liberals.

But Orban’s ruling Fidesz party has dismissed them as a political attack on Hungarian people.

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