Hungary will not be blackmailed, Prime Minister Orban tells EU

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The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to sanction Hungary for flouting EU rules on democracy, civil rights and corruption in an unprecedented step that left Prime Minister Viktor Orban isolated from powerful allies.

The European Parliament is set to vote on a draft motion urging member states to trigger Article 7 of the EU's treaties against Hungary.

But most British Conservative MEPs voted against the move.

For years, Orban has successfully deflected much of the global condemnation about Hungary's electoral system, press freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees and limitations on the functioning of non-governmental organizations, but criticism has been growing even within the European People's Party, to which his Fidesz party belongs.

The EPP membership has muted European Union reaction to Orban's policies over the years and the big question mark is how the group's 217 members will act when the vote is held on Wednesday. Hungary called the vote fraudulent and vowed to challenge it.

Poland on Wednesday said it was very anxious by the European Parliament's rare decision to launch a procedure against Hungary for posing a "systemic threat" to the EU's founding values.

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted to punish Hungary for cracking down on democratic institutions, setting off a process that could ultimately lead to the suspension of the country's voting rights in the bloc.

In a debate on the situation in Hungary and held on Tuesday in the EP plenary, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stressed that the Sargentini report "insults Hungary and insults the Honor of the Hungarian nation".

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"I have always been in favor of building bridges and I want to continue to do so, but yesterday (Tuesday) I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his European Union partners and address our concerns", Manfred tweeted.

Orban, leader of the Fidesz party, won reelection in April 2018 by a landslide, gaining a 2/3 majority in the Hungarian parliament after voters backed his anti-immigration platform, and entering his third consecutive term in office.

The EU Commission, the bloc's executive body, launched Article 7 proceedings against Poland over an alleged erosion of judicial independence late past year. "They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation", said Berber Biala-Hettinga, an expert on human rights in the European Union, in a statement from the group.

Orban has said the mostly Muslim refugees pose an existential threat to Europe's Christian civilization.

An immigration hard-liner, Orban has put pressure on courts, media and non-government groups since coming to power in 2010.

Zoltan Kovacs, spokesperson for the Hungarian government called the vote a "fraud".

"Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize".

Other EU governments could halt any further action, however, and Poland - a fellow ex-communist state that is also facing an Article 7 procedure - has warned it would do so. "He protects his citizens against terror and defends the identity of his country", he said.

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