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EP committee okays report urging ‘nuclear option’ against Hungary

The European Parliamentʼs Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on Monday approved a report that notes the “existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded.” The report calls for the launch of an Article 7 procedure against Hungary.

The report calls for the launch of the Article 7 procedure against Hungary - popularly known as the “nuclear option” to bring an offending state into line - and was approved with a vote of 37 for and 19 against, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

Article 7 is invoked with the aim of suspending certain rights from a member state, if that state is deemed to have persistently breached the EUʼs founding values, defined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union as “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”

The Article 7 procedure could ultimately strip Hungary of its EU voting rights. However, MTI noted, that would require a unanimous vote by all other member states, which analysts say is unlikely. The report, for which MEP Judith Sargentini is rapporteur, is expected to come before the European Parliament in the fall.

Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said the vote on the report had been a “political ruling” and called the procedure a “show trial,” according to official government website kormany.hu.

“Unfortunately we remember many similar conceptual procedures from Hungarian history, when the verdict had already been written long before the trial took place,” the minister added.

There is a major dispute between Brussels and Hungary with relation to migration, Szijjártó pointed out, noting that in Brussels “they view migration and the replacement of the European population being realized via migration as a value.”

“In Brussels they are playing according to George Soros’s music and representing his views and values, while in Hungary we focus on the interests of the Hungarian people,” the minister continued, adding that the Hungarian government sees “security, the family, the defense of Christian culture and respect for work as the kind of European values which must be held, represented and defended.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told journalists after the vote on the report - which he dubbed, not for the first time, the “Soros Report” - that Hungary is being pressured to change its stand on the issue of immigration.

“But in view of the fact that Hungarian voters have already decided on this issue, there is nothing more to talk about,” he added.

Specific concerns

There were 260 motions of amendment tabled to the report, noted MTI later Monday. The committee rejected almost all the amendments submitted by politicians of Hungaryʼs governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition.

The document approved by the committee - which, if adopted by the EP plenary session, will be the EPʼs proposal for a Council decision - specifically states concerns over the functioning of Hungaryʼs constitutional and electoral system; the independence of the judiciary and the rights of judges; corruption and conflicts of interest; privacy and data protection; freedom of expression, academic freedom, and freedom of association and religion; rights of persons belonging to minorities, such as the Roma and Jews; and the fundamental rights of asylum seekers and the right to equal treatment, among others.

The report warned that any clear risk of a serious breach of basic EU values by a member state “does not concern solely the individual Member State where the risk materializes, but has an impact on the other Member States, mutual trust between them and on the very nature of the Union and fundamental rights under Union law.”

MEPs took the view that the Hungarian situation affects the image of the EU in an unfavorable direction and discredits the European stand on fundamental rights, human rights and democracy.

The EPʼs plenary session can adopt the report, thereby proposing that the Council launch an Article 7 procedure against Hungary, by more than two-thirds of those present and by an absolute majority (at least 376 votes), MTI noted.