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Orbán calls Sargentini report an ’insult’ to Hungary ahead of vote

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán yesterday told MEPs that a report on the situation in Hungary that could launch an Article 7 procedure against the country is an "insult" to Hungary and the Hungarian people, Hungarian news agency MTI reported. 

The Sargentini report justifies triggering the Article 7 procedure, which could ultimately strip Hungary of its EU voting rights, citing the "existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded".

It notes concerns related to the functioning of the constitutional and electoral system; the independence of the judiciary and of other institutions and the rights of judges; corruption and conflicts of interest; privacy and data protection; freedom of expression; academic freedom; freedom of religion; freedom of association; the right to equal treatment; the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including Roma and Jews, and protection against hateful statements against such minorities; the fundamental rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees; and economic and social rights. The report was approved by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties and Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) in June. It will be put to an EP vote today.

Its approval will require more than two-thirds of voting MEPs and an absolute majority of all MEPs (at least 376). "I am standing here and defending my country because freedom, democracy, independence and Europe are questions of honor for Hungarians. That is why the report before you insults the honor of Hungary and the Hungarian people," Orbán told the European Parliament in Strasbourg during a debate yesterday on the report, for which the Dutch Group of the Greens MEP Judith Sargentini is rapporteur.

Orbán told MEPs that Hungary is being condemned because the Hungarian people have decided they will not become a country of immigrants. "I reject that pro-immigration forces threaten, blackmail and slander Hungary and the Hungarian people," he said. "We Hungarians are ready for the [EP] elections next May, in which the people will finally decide the future of Europe," Orbán said. "We would never resort to stigmatizing those who do not agree with us," he added, prompting laughter in the chamber, according to hvgʼs report.

After his speech, Orbán said that the European People’s Party (EPP) has lost its character and is acting in the way liberals and socialists want. Orbán says he wants to reform the EPP so that it would find its courage again. He also claimed that only Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor who invited Orbánʼs party to join EPP (and who died in 2017), has the right to fire Fidesz from the group.

Opposition Socialist MEPs will vote for the findings of the Sargentini report in the European Parliament, green party LMP will vote against it and right-wing Jobbik will abstain, index.hu says.

The result of the vote most likely will depend on the amount of EPP members supporting the report. Several high-profile conservative figures including Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and EPP head Manfred Weber have declared their support for the report.