MEPs demand crackdown on rule of law in Hungary

Campaigners say that Parliament’s decision to launch a fresh crackdown on Hungary marks a clear red line on the protection of rights.

Viktor Orbán | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

18 May 2017

A resolution adopted by MEPs in Strasbourg states that the situation in Hungary justifies triggering the so-called Article 7 procedure, which may result in hefty sanctions being levied against the central European country.

MEPs said a serious deterioration of rule of law and democracy in Hungary merited such action, which could include restricting the voting rights of Hungary in the European Council.

The resolution insists that the controversial new laws on civil society in Hungary must be suspended or withdrawn.


It goes on to warn that EU funds for Hungary should now come under close surveillance by the Commission.

The formal Article 7 procedure is necessary, said MEPs, to determine whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values by a member state.

The resolution calls on the Hungarian government to repeal laws tightening rules against asylum seekers and non-governmental organisations, and to make it possible for the Central European University (CEU) to remain in Budapest as a free institution.

It has been claimed that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wants to shut the CEU, partly because of its links with billionaire George Soros, a political enemy.

Orbán, in a recent speech MEPs, flatly denied it was his intention to see the CEU close.

The resolution was adopted by 393 votes to 221 with 64 abstentions.

It reads, “Recent developments in Hungary have led to a serious deterioration in the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights which is testing the EU’s ability to defend its founding values.”

Iverna McGowan, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions office, said, “With this vote, the European Parliament has called time on the Hungarian government’s attacks on civil society and the fundamental rights of Hungarians, migrants, refugees, and minority groups.

“This vote highlights the severity of the situation in Hungary and must be followed up by strong action from the European Council.”

“The European Parliament marked out a clear red line on the protection of rights, which European governments simply cannot cross.”

“The Hungarian government must hear this loud and clear and bring itself back into line with EU founding principles, and refrain itself from adopting new laws attempting to silence civil society, including the draft law on the transparency of organisations funded from abroad.”

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