Sargentini Report: LIBE committee recommends launching Article 7 proceedings against Hungary

2018. 06. 28.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) adopted the Sargentini Report by 37 to 19 on Monday to recommend Article 7 proceedings, following a lively debate last week over 260 amendments that had been put forward.

“They want to apply pressure to Hungary,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a statement to reporters in Budapest following the vote, “so that it changes its standpoint with relation to migration”.

“But in view of the fact that Hungarian voters have already decided on this issue, there is nothing more to talk about”, he added.

The so-called Sargentini report, named after the Dutch green rapporteur, Judith Sargentini, is in fact a Soros report, said the prime minister, because she is one of George Soros’s people.

During the heated debate preceding Monday’s vote, several MEPs criticized the state of rule of law in Hungary. Rapporteur Sargentini voiced concern over the recent constitutional amendment and the Stop Soros legislative package accepted by the Hungarian National Assembly on Wednesday. Regarding the latter she said that it was a quite modest request to wait for the Venice Commission’s opinion, but Hungarian authorities couldn’t even grant that. The Hungarian government has stated clearly that it already knew the substance of the Venice Commission opinion and it was taken into account.

“The report is full of falsehoods, factual errors and it dredges up several issues that have already been dealt with or don’t even belong within the EU’s authority”, said Fidesz MEP Kinga Gál after the vote.

Hungarian EPP Group MEPs submitted 130 amendments to the report in order to point out that there is no threat of violating fundamental EU values in Hungary. The committee, however, would only include one sentence from each of these in the compromise amendments.

Gál’s fellow MEP, Lívia Járóka, drew attention to the double standards being applied and argued that those who criticize the Stop Soros package “are defending human traffickers”.

The report “creates an indictment against Hungary based on false claims,” said József Szájer, Fidesz MEP. He pointed out the lack of balance in the procedure and that the LIBE Committee is “acting as prosecution and court at the same time” while not permitting enough time to the Hungarian government to defend itself. “They are preaching about the rule of law, yet they do nothing other than act like the worst dictators,” highlighted the Fidesz MEP.

Hungarian MEPs were not alone in denouncing the bias and flaws of the report.

The report, according to MEP Marek Jurek of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), threatens to deepen the crisis within the EU and give rise to conflicts. Every nation, he emphasized, has the right to adopt its own policy, and there are opposition parties in Hungary, so it is possible for Hungarian voters to replace the government.

It has become clear once again that the European left disregards the facts about Hungary, said Judit Varga, state secretary for EU relations in the Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement to MTI. “It’s staggering how the rapporteur attempts to put Hungary into the prisoner’s box based on newspaper articles and the groundless accusations of some NGOs”, she said.

The fact that there was no response to the Hungarian government’s detailed legal reasoning puts the seriousness of the EP’s procedure into jeopardy, she added.

Observers say that following Monday’s vote, the committee’s recommendation based on the Sargentini report will likely be put to the EP plenary in September. If passed, the EP may then formally recommend the Article 7 procedure – also known as the “nuclear option” – against Hungary.

To pass, the proposal requires support from more than two-thirds of MEPs present constituting at least an absolute majority of all MEPs (a minimum of 376 votes). If approved by the EP, it’s up to the Council to rule with a four-fifths majority on whether fundamental EU values are in jeopardy in Hungary.

Article 7 outlines a multi-step procedure for cases where basic EU values are deemed heavily and systematically violated. The Article 7 procedure could ultimately lead to a suspension of voting rights of the country in question, although this would require the unanimous approval of all other Member States, a scenario that most observers consider almost impossible.