Conservative MEPs refuse to vote for EU action against 'antisemitic' Hungarian government

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has been accused of 'pandering to antisemitism' and has waged a campaign against George Soros


Conservative MEPs have voted against triggering the EU’s most serious disciplinary procedure against the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán, which stands accused of "pandering to antisemitism".

For the first time in its history, the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to trigger an article 7 procedure against a member state, deeming that Hungary’s government poses a “systematic threat” to democracy and the rule of law.

Mr Orbán, Hungary’s Prime Minister, has attacked refugees as "Muslim invaders" and waged a campaign against Jewish Hungarian billionaire George Soros, who survived the Holocaust as a child and whom Mr Orban accused of wanting to “take over” the country.

In the run-up to his re-election this year, Mr Orbán gave a speech full of antisemitic tropes where he said: “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us.

“They do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honourable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs. They are not generous, but vengeful, and always attack the heart – especially if it is red, white and green [the colours of the Hungarian flag].”

Before the vote, Tory MEP Dan Dalton said the report proposing action against Hungary "crosses a boundary by politicising what should be a purely legal matter."

He said: "If the EU's treaties have been breached by any Member State, it is for the European Commission to build a legal case against it. MEPs have no role to play in the process and their involvement leaves any subsequent legal action open to the accusation that it is politically motivated.

"This report is misguided, counter-productive and sets a dangerous precedent."

Labour MEPs voted to trigger article 7, which initiates a process which can lead to a country being stripped of its EU voting rights.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl "noted with disappointment" the vote.

She said: “As we have stated previously, we are very alarmed by the messages at the heart of Orban’s election campaign, including his comments about ‘Muslim invaders’, calling migrants ‘poison’, and the vivid antisemitism in the relentless campaign against Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

“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.

“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.”

Despite the Jew-hate crisis that has engulfed the party, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party's MEPs voted to trigger the action partly because Mr Orban's government was "pandering to antisemitism".

Before Wednesday's vote, Mr Corbyn said Labour MEPs would vote for action against Hungary and said Prime Minister Theresa May should “condemn [Mr Orban’s] attacks on judicial and media independence, denial of refugee rights, and pandering to antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

Speaking to the Independent after the vote, his spokesman said: "It’s absolutely shocking that the Conservative MEPs voted against this motion.”

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