EU Draft Report Backs Sanctions on Hungary Over Rule of Law

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union should initiate a process that could result in the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights in the bloc because other measures have failed to reverse democratic backsliding in the eastern member, the European Parliament said in a draft report.

"The time for issuing warnings has passed,” European Parliament rapporteur Judith Sargentini said on Thursday, after presenting a 26-page report that recommended triggering Article 7 procedures against Hungary, the strongest possible sanction against a member state. The report said Hungary posed a “clear risk of a serious breach” to the EU’s democratic values.

EU Draft Report Backs Sanctions on Hungary Over Rule of Law

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban scored a crushing victory in a third consecutive parliamentary election on Sunday after vowing to fight EU plans to allocate refugees across the bloc and to continue a crackdown at home against civil society groups. That has put the 54-year old, who’s become a role model for anti-establishment parties challenging the bloc’s liberal democratic values across Europe, on a collision course with the EU.

The European Commission last year triggered the Article 7 process against Poland, another ex-communist bloc member that has mimicked many of Orban’s policies. Polish lawmakers started a debate on Wednesday about whether to modify a judicial overhaul that’s allowed the government to extend its influence over the courts and sparked a two-year standoff with the EU.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, which is scheduled to vote on the report in June, “doesn’t care about the opinion or the will of the Hungarian people,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on public television on Thursday. The report runs counter to the result of the election, which gave a strong mandate to the government, he said.

If the committee backs the report, it will then go to a vote in the 751-member European Parliament. But it’s unlikely to pass, because the largest faction is the European People’s Party, which includes Orban’s Fidesz.

The actual suspension of a country’s voting right must be agreed to by the leaders of all member states. Poland and Hungary have previously vowed to use their vetoes to protect one another from any such measure.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.