The European Parliament voted on Wednesday in favour of launching the Article 7 procedure against Hungary for violating European values, raising the prospect of Budapest being sanctioned by Brussels.
The European Parliament denounced the “systemic” threat to EU values in Hungary, and called on the EU to act by launching the procedure, the most radical mechanism aimed at a country flouting European rules. It was adopted by 448 MEPs to 197 with 48 abstentions. The required majority was two-thirds of the votes cast.
The resolution sent to the member states lists the multiple violations of democracy and human rights seen by the European institutions since the arrival to power in 2010 of Fidesz, the party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, with regard to the independence of justice, freedom of the media, academic freedom and the fate of migrants and those who assist them.
Elected members of the main political party of the assembly, the conservative EPP, to which the party of the Hungarian leader also belongs, did not receive voting instructions, but their group leader Manfred Weber said that he would support the triggering of Article 7.
The European Council must itself decide by a four-fifths majority of its members whether there is a risk of violation of EU values within Hungary and to consider the measures to be taken.
Article 7 was also launched last December against Poland, at the initiative of the European Commission.
This is the first time that the European Parliament has used its right of initiative to ask the Council (the Member States) to decide on the situation of the rule of law in a member country.
The Article 7 procedure is often referred to as a “nuclear option”, as it can ultimately lead to a suspension of voting rights in the European Council, the body where the 28 member states execute EU legislation.