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EU court rejects Hungary appeal of parliament probe

By AFP - Jun 04,2021 - Last updated at Jun 04,2021

BUDAPEST — The EU Court of Justice dismissed on Thursday a technical challenge by Hungary of a decision to probe Budapest's alleged "serious breach" of the 27-member bloc's democratic values.

The European Parliament voted in 2018 to trigger an "Article 7" disciplinary procedure against Hungary to determine whether Budapest is undermining European legal standards and democratic values.

Theoretically, that could end up with Hungary being stripped of its right to vote in EU proceedings.

But Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government appealed against the resolution, arguing that the vote procedure "seriously infringed" on rules by leaving out abstentions.

"When calculating the votes cast when that resolution was adopted, the Parliament was right to exclude the taking into account of abstentions," said a statement by the court.

"MEPs' abstentions do not have to be counted in order to determine whether the majority of two thirds of the votes cast [needed to launch the procedure] has been reached," it said.

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga called the ruling "completely unacceptable and shocking".

"As we all know, abstention means a tacit disagreement," Varga said on her Facebook site.

"And still, we are the ones who are held accountable for adhering to common values and rules? Come on!" she said.

Budapest has long been at loggerheads with Brussels over democracy issues like judicial independence and press freedom, and its hardline anti-immigration policies.

But Hungary and its ally Poland -- which is also in hot water with the EU executive for perceived rule of law breaches -- have a mutual protection pact that protects each other from the unanimous EU vote needed for the Article 7 measure to be passed.

Budapest and Warsaw threatened to veto the EU's recovery fund last year along with the entire EU budget over proposals to link some fund payments to rule of law conditions, describing it as "political blackmail".

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