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EU legislators vote to impose disciplinary action on Hungary
European Union (EU) legislators voted Wednesday to launch punitive action against the Hungarian government for moves against "democratic values," according to multiple reports.
The vote was reportedly an unexpected blow to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of pressuring courts and media and has refused to accept asylum seekers since assuming power in 2010.
Almost 450 members voted in favor of the motion, 197 voted against, and 48 abstained. This move marked the first time that Article 7 of the EU constitution has been triggered, which can suspend certain rights of a state, Al Jazeera noted, adding that the vote may lead to Hungary's voting rights being stripped.
Hungarian officials were quick to condemn the vote. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto described the vote as "nothing less than the petty revenge of pro-immigration politicians," according to the news service.
"This decision condemning Hungary and the Hungarian people was made because we Hungarians have demonstrated that migration in not a necessary process and that migration can be stopped," Szijjarto added in comments to reporters in Budapest.
The EU's move received praise from human rights groups, including Amnesty International.
"The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU. They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation," said Berber Biala-Hettinga, an expert on human rights in the EU, in a statement from the group.
Full invocation of Article 7 to limit Hungary's voting power is expected to be difficult, observers said, noting that such a vote requires full agreement from the EU, and nationalist governments like Poland's are likely to block severe moves against Orban.