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European Parliament Committee Rejects "Nuclear Option" Article 7 Procedure Against Hungary

By Ferenc Sullivan // 2015.10.14.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) has rejected an initiative by the legislative body’s Liberal group to start an Article 7 procedure against Hungary.

The initiative was rejected with 31 MEPs against, 18 in favour and 2 abstentions. The coordinators of the various EP groups agreed last week that the initiative would not be on LIBE’s agenda, but the committee would instead ask the European Commission why it has not completed a report on Hungary which should have been ready in September. Despite last week’s agreement among coordinators, representatives of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group insisted that the initiative be on the agenda. The ALDE group called for activation of the procedure in late September after the adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of a package of amendments to the defence law and the adoption of a special law on defence, which ALDE said strengthens the power of the police and the army, authorising them to make use of their firearms against migrants and refugees under certain circumstances.

Kinga Gál, an MEP for Hungary’s ruling centre-right Fidesz party, said in a statement that “the vote proves that the majority does not support action against Hungary”.

Under Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, serious breaches to the values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights by a member state can result in a suspension or loss of voting rights in the EU Council of Ministers. Its activation would mean that Hungary would temporarily lose its EU membership rights.

Speaking in September, Sophie in’ t Veld, First Vice-President of the ALDE group, said: “How much further can the Orbán government go before the Commission and Council wake up? ALDE has been ringing the alarm bells about the Hungarian government for many years. Now the situation is spiralling out of control. […] If the Commission and the Council remain silent, Europe would lose “any remaining credibility as a community of values”. Veteran Belgian politician Louis Michel, a member of the LIBE Committee and father of the country’s current prime minister Charles Michel, added that the refugees were arriving to Europe to escape from bullets, but were now risking their lives facing those of Mr. Orbán.

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