MEP Moves to Remove Hungary’s Ability to Vote in the EU Council

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is facing renewed pressure from Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) seeking to thwart his upcoming EU presidency. 

Finnish MEP Petri Sarvamaa, representing the center-right EPP group, initiated the move by proposing the removal of Orbán’s voting rights in the EU Council, citing a “serious and persistent breach of EU values.” Sarvamaa referred to Hungary’s criticism for eroding the rule of law and Orbán’s disruption of the EU summit in December by vetoing EU funding for Ukraine to secure funds for Hungary.

This marks a second attempt, with the EU Parliament and European Commission previously pursuing a similar exclusion procedure in 2018 under Article 7(1) of the EU treaty. Sarvamaa, however, believes the current effort, invoking the less stringent Article 7(2), stands a better chance of success. The procedure allows the Council to acknowledge a breach of values, potentially leading to the suspension of certain membership rights.

In June, MEPs passed a non-binding resolution to suspend Orbán’s upcoming EU Council presidency starting in July. Sarvamaa expressed confidence that widespread support across party lines could lead to swift action by the European Parliament.

The move gains significance as EU Council Chairman Charles Michel steps down early to run as an MEP, potentially allowing Orbán to assume his duties until a replacement is appointed. Critics, including Hungarian opposition figures and some EU diplomats, view Orbán’s presidency as a “grave danger” and question the effectiveness of sanctions.

Despite these concerns, skeptics within the EU Council doubt the feasibility of the proposal, emphasizing the lack of support and potential risks to the structure of the rotating EU presidency. 

Some diplomats who spoke to the publication EU Observer on the condition of anonymity argue that Hungary’s presidency, occurring during a transitional period after the EU elections, would have limited impact, deeming it a “lame-duck presidency” with minimal policy influence.

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