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EU brands its own member state an ‘autocracy’

The largely symbolic move comes as Brussels reportedly prepares to slash funding to Hungary

FILE PHOTO: Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session on renewable energy during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 14, 2022 ©  AFP / Frederick Florin

The European Parliament voted on Thursday to brand Hungary an “electoral autocracy.” The symbolic declaration comes as the rift between Budapest and Brussels widens, with the EU accusing Hungary of corruption and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of breaking with the bloc on immigration and anti-Russian sanctions.

In a 433 to 123 vote, the parliament agreed to no longer consider Hungary a “democracy,” and instead to label it a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy.” 

In its report on Hungary’s political system, EU lawmakers alleged that the country’s elections and judicial independence are compromised, and that Orban’s government has restricted the rights of migrants, minorities, and the LGBT community. The report’s conclusions were based on an “increasing consensus among experts,” the document read.

Hungary countered that the report “is based on subjective opinions and politically biased statements,” and is “yet another attempt by the federalist European political parties to attack Hungary and its Christian-democratic, conservative government.” 

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EU may punish Hungary – media

The report calls on the European Commission to “make full use of the tools available” to force Budapest back in line with “European values.”

The vote came a day after Bloomberg reported that the European Commission may withhold more than €40 billion in funding for Hungary over allegations of corruption by Orban’s government. The commission began investigating these allegations shortly after Orban’s Fidesz party was re-elected in a landslide victory in April.

The European Parliament in 2018 voted to trigger Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union against Hungary in response to Orban’s crackdown on immigration and supposed defiance of the bloc’s “core values.” If ratified by the Council of Europe, this move could deprive Hungary of its membership rights or subject it to sanctions.

In addition to heavily restricting immigration, Hungary has more recently clashed with the EU over the bloc’s response to the conflict in Ukraine. Hungary has refused to allow weapons to enter Ukraine from its territory, has opposed sanctions on Russian fossil fuels, and has upped its own purchases of gas from Russia. 

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