Sargentini’s report may encounter several political and institutional obstacles next week. Two Fidesz MEPs are accusing the claimants of playing with the procedural rules of the European Parliament.
Others speculate higher political motivations could hijack the discussion. Tamás Deutch, the member of European People’s Party (EPP), suspects that the European Parliament will employ “procedural tricks” to ensure that a motion to launch a sanctions procedure against Hungary passes when the legislative body votes on it next week, daily Magyar Idők said on Friday. However, according to Index.hu’s analysis, there couldn’t be a worse time than next week for the final vote.
Changing rules could be critical to Sargentini’s faction as the election could end up having a high rate of abstention due to many EPP members choosing not to vote against Fidesz. If this scenario happens, they won’t receive two-thirds support for launching the Article 7 procedure which would suspend Hungary’s rights inside the EU. If these votes don’t end up counting, the elections against Hungary could result in a two-thirds majority.
Another EPP member Kinga Gál, also a Fidesz MEP, criticised the EP’s voting rules in an earlier interview with Magyar Idők, saying: “It’s funny that they’re questioning our adherence to the rule of law when they’re trying to circumvent EU law.”
Meanwhile, the Nézőpont Institute claims the report is full of double standards. They draw attention to the fact that many of the points criticized by Sargentini are already being enforced in other member states. For instance, separate administrative courts exist in Austria, France, and Luxemburg. They also note that Hungary’s exit from the Open Government Partnership is not unique, as countries like Austria, Belgium, and Slovenia are not members of the organization either. In regards to academic freedom and foreign founded universities, they noted that Greece and the Czech Republic have stricter regulations.
The timing is working in Fidesz’s favor
Yesterday, Judith Sargentini admitted to HVG that the report has come out a bit late: the European Commission has been looking for potential ways to get involved in Hungarian affairs and she claims there wasn’t enough political motivation to warrant steps against Viktor Orbán’s government due to Fidesz’s membership in the EPP.
However, according to Index.hu’s analysis, there couldn’t be a worse time than next week for the final vote. The timing is especially unfortunate for EPP’S leader, Manfred Weber, who announced his desire to be the face of the party in the EP election campaign just yesterday. Dividing the EPP over Orbán is the last thing Weber needs while running for election. Already in a tenuous situation, Weber will have to navigate between his good relationship with the PM and his duty to not support Orbán if his actions go against European values.
The newspaper claims that Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and EPP member, doesn’t like the idea of holding the vote next week as it would be right after his last state of the union speech. The disputes over the report would deliver a message of discord, opposing Junker’s vision of the importance of European unity.