STRASBOURG — The European Parliament passed a motion on Wednesday declaring that Hungary is at risk of breaching the EU’s core values, triggering a disciplinary process that could exacerbate deep divisions within the bloc.
The assembly passed the motion with 448 votes in favour — and 197 against and 48 abstentions — to initiate the so-called Article 7 process, citing concerns about the independence of the judiciary, corruption, freedom of expression, academic freedom, the rights of minorities and migrants and other issues.
The vote reflected a broader divide within the EU, between those who stress that it is a community of liberal values and leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has championed the idea of “illiberal democracy.” Broadly speaking, major Western European governments such as France and Germany along with the European Commission are in the former camp while governments in Central and Eastern Europe are in the latter.
In theory, the Article 7 process can lead to a member country being stripped of its right to vote in the Council of the European Union. The procedure is unlikely to get that far, however, as it would require the unanimous approval of other member countries — and multiple EU governments do not view Hungary’s democratic record as problematic.