Hungary's populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivered a fiery speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in which he claimed his country was being condemned for choosing not to be a "country of migrants", as he conceded that the European parliament was set to trigger the EU’s most serious sanction against his government.
Arriving late to the debate in the chamber in Strasbourg on Tuesday on the country’s courts, treatment of its Roma community and media and academic freedoms, Orban told MEPs that the parliament was “insulting” his nation.
A defiant Orban accused the “pro-migrant majority” of having “already made up their minds” to invoke the European Union Treaty’s Article 7 against Hungary, for its treatment of migrants and minorities, and the ruling party purported abuse of the law and suppression of media freedoms.
"But still I have come heretoday because you are not going to condemn a government but a country as well as a nation. You are going to denounce Hungary that has been a member of the family of Christian nations for a thousand years."
The Hungarian populist nationalist, who won landslide general election victory in April, was addressing the parliament before a vote on Wednesday on a report which has advised it to trigger article 7, which can ultimately lead to an EU member state losing its voting rights in the union’s institutions, according to the Guardian
Orbán stands accused of undermining the independence of its judiciary and media, waging a propaganda and legal war against the Central European University, founded by the philanthropist George Soros, and mistreating asylum seekers and refugees while limiting the functioning of non-governmental organisations who seek to aid them.
"Hungary will not accede to this blackmailing, Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration and - if needed - we will stand up to you,” said Orban.
Calling the proceedings an “insult” to his nation, Orban called Hungary the “defender of Europe” and spoke of its “different view on Christianity in Europe, the role of nations and national culture.”
“These differences cannot be a reason to brand any country and be excluded from joint decisions. We would never go as far as to silence those that do not agree with us,” said the Hungarian prime minister, as the majority of the chamber sat in silence, while his mostly Euroskeptic supporters cheered.
Article 7 is applied if an EU member state presents a “systemic threat” to the bloc’s values, which Hungary was adjudged to have done in a report by Green MEP Judith Sargentini earlier this year, and could result in Budapest losing its voting representation in various European bodies, becoming a pariah state in the union.
It requires for two-thirds of MEPs to vote in favor of accepting the report on Wednesday, after European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his annual State of the Union speech.
This is considered likely, but all the other EU nations would then need to agree unanimously to punish Budapest. Such consensus has never been achieved, meaning that Article 7 has never been implemented, and is not likely this time either, although in an unexpected setback for Orban, Austria’s governing center-right party People’s Party decided to back the report. Hungary’s northern neighbor appeared to be on the verge of joining the Visegrad Group of four anti-migrant European states (which also includes Poland, Czechia and Slovakia) when Sebastian Kurz won the election last year
Hungary has vowed to veto the application of similar sanctions to Poland, under its own investigation, and at least Warsaw will likely return the favor.
“There can be no compromises on the rule of law and democracy and it is therefore important that the accusations that have been made against Hungary are cleared up,” Kurz told Austria’s national television ahead of the MEP vote.
That said, Orban retained the support of one notable Europarliament presence: Nigel Farage.
Mr Orbán should join the Brexit club. He will love it. pic.twitter.com/VsuBwKIhbc— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) September 11, 2018
“Thank God there is at least one European leader prepared to stand up for his principles, his culture, his nation and his people in the face of such extreme bullying,” said former UK leader Nigel Farage, who called the proceedings against Budapest “a show trial.”