U.K. Environment Secretary Michael Gove defended Conservative MEPs for not voting in favor of a censure motion against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
He said Tory European lawmakers’ decision was because of “a long-standing principle” that the European Parliament should not “interfere in, or censure, the internal democracy of a particular country.”
Environment Secretary @michaelgove talks about Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and the Conservative party #marr pic.twitter.com/2VjIypJAaL
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 16, 2018
On Wednesday, the European Parliament took the unprecedented step of triggering a disciplinary procedure against Hungary, declaring that the country is at risk of breaching the EU’s core values.
With 448 votes in favor, the Parliament decided to initiate a so-called Article 7 process, citing concerns about judicial independence, corruption, freedom of expression, academic freedom, the rights of minorities and migrants, and other issues. A total of 197 members of the European Parliament opposed the motion and 48 abstained.
On Sunday, Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr it was not true that his party’s MEPs had supported Orbán.
“There was a vote in the European Parliament, but there is a long-standing principle of a number of MEPs from different countries and from different parties not to believe that the European Parliament should interfere in, or censure, the internal democracy of a particular country,” Gove said.
“You or I might have particular views about other countries, but the European Parliament and those within it, British MEPs and others, believe that that’s the wrong way of expressing criticism.”
Marr asked if Gove was pleased to have the support of Orbán, who said last week that “we would like to have a fair Brexit because we love the British and because we cooperated always well — and you deserve a good deal, a fair deal.”
Gove replied: “It’s not for me to rank a league table of EU leaders and say that one is my favorite and that one I have less time for, because I believe in cooperative diplomacy. Even generosity of spirit towards our EU partners.”