EU sanction threat ’no danger’ to Hungary: PM Orban
BUDAPEST - AFP
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Sept. 14 a European Parliament vote to launch a sanctions procedure over rule-of-law concerns presented "no danger" to Hungary.
Dominant at home and a figurehead for populist and nationalist figures across Europe, Orban suffered a rare defeat Wednesday when the assembly in Strasbourg voted to take legal action against Hungary under Article Seven of the European Union’s treaty.
That procedure could end with Budapest being stripped of its EU voting rights, but Orban brushed off the threat during an interview on Hungarian public radio.
Poland has said it would veto any possible sanctions on Hungary.
"It is a type of procedure at the end of which there is no sanction, there is no danger," he said, pointing to the example of a 2013 report adopted by the European Parliament which condemned controversial changes to Hungary’s constitution.
In that instance "nothing happened, that’ll be the case again this time," he said.
In addition other EU governments could veto any further action on sanctions, and Poland has warned it would do so.
Orban characterised Wednesday’s vote as a bid to weaken Hungary’s position as a "symbol of resistance against migration".
Accusing German Chancellor Angela Merkel of wanting to replace Hungarian border-guards with "mercenaries sent from Brussels," Orban said "the next battle" will concern member states’ right to defend their own borders.
That battle will begin in Salzburg, Austria, he said, where the topics of migration and border security were expected to dominate an informal meeting of EU heads of state next week.
The Strasbourg motion was based on a report that voiced concerns about judicial independence and corruption in Hungary, as well as freedom of expression, academic freedom, religious freedom, and the rights of minorities.
The motion was passed with 448 votes for and 197 against, with 48 abstentions.
Budapest argues that abstentions should have been counted in calculating whether a necessary two-thirds majority threshold was passed, and that consequently the vote was not valid.
Orban accused the European Parliament of committing an "obvious violation of its own rules" and thereby "eating up its last crumbs of respect from a moral point of view".
"A different parliament and a different future is needed," he said, and predicted that next May’s European Parliament election will see the end of what he called the "pro-immigration majority" in the assembly.
A decision by Budapest on how to mount a legal challenge on the Strasbourg vote’s validity will be taken on Monday, he added.