Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday told the European Parliament that potential disciplinary measures against his country are a "moral decision" that amounts to "abuse of power."
Under pressure from the European Union Commission, Orban is facing a vote that could see Hungary lose its voting rights in the bloc for undercutting democracy and EU core values.
Read more: Could Hungary lose its EU voting rights?
- "I stand here in front of you and I defend my country because, for Hungarians, liberty democracy independence and Europe are matters of honor."
- "What you are doing here is a slap in the face of the Union"
- "We have defended Hungary, and we have defended Europe."
- "We have a different picture about the nature of Christianity in Europe and the role of nations and cultures in our country."
'Between nationalism and Europe'
Judith Sargentini, who launched the debate to sanction Hungary under Article 7 of the EU treaty, said Orban has orchestrated the "structural erosion of the rule of law."
Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the EU Commission, said "civil society is the very fabric of democratic society and is threatened by measures taken by the Hungarian government."
Manfred Weber, the German leader of the EU parliament's conservatives who has signaled his intention to head the EU Commission, said Hungary must decide "between nationalism and Europe."
Nigel Farage, the former head of the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) who led the "No" campaign for the Brexit vote, defended Orban, saying "at least one EU politician is ready to stand up for his principles." He urged him to "join the Brexit club."
Other EU lawmakers made clear that possible disciplinary actions against Hungary are "not an attack on the people of Hungary."
Losing support:Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has long supported Orban's hard-line stance on refugees, signaled his intention to vote against Hungary. "There are no compromises on the rule of law," Kurz told ORF television. "Fundamental values have to be protected."
Why is the EU putting pressure on Hungary?Under Orban, Hungary has witnessed what critics have called an authoritarian turn. The far-right premier has continuously targeted press freedoms, the judiciary's independence, asylum seekers and non-governmental organizations.
What is Article 7?Article 7 of the EU Treaty allows for the suspension of certain rights of a member state if "there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the values referred to in Article 2." Those values comprise "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities."
Upcoming vote:The European Parliament will vote on Wednesday whether to recommend disciplinary measures against Hungary under Article 7.
ls/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)
Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.