The European Parliament has voted to pursue unprecedented disciplinary action against Hungary over alleged breaches of the EU’s core values.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has been accused of attacks on the media, minorities, and the rule of law – charges which he denies.
More than two-thirds of MEPs backed the censure motion – the first such vote against a member state under EU rules.
If also approved by national leaders, Hungary could face punitive measures.
They include stripping the country of voting rights at European Union level.
Since coming to power, Mr Orban’s government has taken a hardline stance against immigration. It introduced a law which made it a criminal offence for lawyers and activists to help asylum seekers, under the banner of “facilitating illegal immigration”.
But there have also been reports of pressure being put on the courts and the electoral system, and of widespread corruption.
After the vote, the European Parliament said it was also concerned about:
- The constitutional and electoral system
- Privacy and data protection
- Freedom of expression and religion
- Academic freedom and freedom of association
- Equal rights, particularly for refugees and minorities such as Roma and Jews
Mr Orban addressed the parliament on Tuesday in defence of his government, labelling the threat of censure as a form of “blackmail” and an insult to Hungary.
He claimed a report by Dutch Greens MEP Judith Sargentini was an “abuse of power”, and included “serious factual misrepresentations”.
Ms Sargentini’s report into Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party alleged such actions were “a clear breach of the values of our union”.