Hungary to explore legal steps to challenge critical European Union ruling

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Hungary's government will decide on Monday on legal steps it plans to take to challenge a European parliament ruling against the country for flouting democratic standards, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

The vote in Strasbourg, France, came after a report from Dutch Green member of the European Parliament Judith Sargentini raised concerns about Hungary's erosion of democracy in recent years, including putting pressure on courts, widespread corruption, crackdown on the media and academic institutions.

Decision is now left to the 28 European Union member states, but the ultimate repercussion of suspension of voting rights appears unlikely with the assembly describing the move as "preventive", calculated to avoid penalties completely.

Requiring an absolute majority and 2/3 of votes cast, the legislative resolution was adopted with 448 in favor, 197 against and 48 abstaining.

"This whipping up of prejudice by the Hungarian government - alongside restrictions on press freedom and the independence of the judiciary - must be stopped before it undermines Hungary's democracy irreversibly", she said in a statement released Thursday.

He said Europe had no right to interfere in the actions of a sovereign government.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, echoing Orban's longtime position, called the Wednesday's vote "petty revenge" against Hungary for its tough anti-migration policies.

"Hungary will not accede to this blackmailing".

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The move saw some members of the European People's Party bloc - of which Orban's Fidesz movement is a member - vote against their ally in Budapest.

Agoston Mraz, director of Hungary's pro-government think-tank Nezopont, said Orban still did not want to leave the EPP.

When Orban began consolidating power after his 2010 election victory, he was largely the only leader in the European Union promoting what he calls his "illiberal" platform.

It is the first time in EU history that the European Parliament had initiated and approved such a motion, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass and was approved by 69.4pc of the lawmakers. Since then, far-right politicians have gained ground across the continent, including in Italy, where they are in government, and in Sweden, where an anti-immigrant party won its best result to date in elections on Sunday.

"It is very concerning that the Conservative Party MEPs chose to defend Hungary's appalling track record, rather than supporting this motion to protect the rule of law". Farage said it was good to finally see a European leader "stand up for his principles". "We are allies", he said. "We had enough dialogue".

Poland will not support European Union sanctions against Hungary. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

"If there is a serious problem, and to some extent we do understand and share some concerns mentioned in the report, the right way would be to go through the European Commission and not the European Parliament, which is why we voted the way we did", Plenković said.