EU lawmakers seek action over rights, rule of law in Hungary

AP News
Posted: May 17, 2017 11:37 AM

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union lawmakers have called for an investigation of member-state Hungary to determine whether its laws are in "serious breach of EU values."

The move reflects deep concerns within the EU about whether there has been a deterioration in human rights, democracy and the rule of law there.

In a resolution adopted Wednesday by 393 votes to 221 with 64 abstentions, the lawmakers call on Hungary to withdraw tough new laws on asylum seekers and non-governmental organizations.

They also want Budapest to reach an agreement with U.S. authorities so a university funded by George Soros can continue to operate freely in the Hungarian capital. Hungary says the university is issuing Hungarian and American diplomas, giving it an unfair advantage over other schools.

The resolution demands that an EU procedure be triggered to investigate whether the laws are in "serious breach of EU values." It could lead to the suspension of Hungary's EU voting rights.

But Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the government refuses to bow to European pressure and will continue "to practice a migration policy that is exclusively aimed at ensuring the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people."

"Not a single illegal immigrant will be allowed to set foot in Hungary," he added.

Liberal EU lawmaker Sophie In't Veld said Prime Minister Viktor Orban "has systematically undermined all critical voices and opposition forces."

"He is guilty of interfering with academic freedom, controlling the school curriculum, gagging the media, harassing NGOs, undermining the independence of the judiciary and limiting freedom of religion. Under his watch, asylum seekers are maltreated and detained in shameful conditions, while government campaigns have fanned racism and hatred," she said.

Last month, the European Commission sent a "letter of formal notice" to Orban's government, which is a first step in legal action, over the education law believed to target the Soros-backed Central European University.

That dispute is part of a wider government campaign against the billionaire philanthropist. Orban claims Soros is undermining Hungarian interests because of his support for migrants.

Tens of thousands of people have crossed into and through Hungary in recent years. Orban is determined to stop more from coming.


Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed.