Top EU court rejects Hungary challenge to values sanction

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top court on Thursday dismissed Hungary’s attempt to overturn a European Parliament action aimed at holding the country to account for what lawmakers consider to be a breach of the bloc’s values.

The EU parliament launched a procedure in 2018 to force Hungary’s EU partner nations to sanction Budapest over concerns about the country’s constitutional and electoral systems, the independence of its judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest.

The “Article 7” procedure was contained in a resolution that was adopted with 448 votes for and 197 against, while 48 lawmakers abstained. Hungary argued that had the abstentions been taken into account, the vote would not have achieved the required two-thirds majority.

But the European Court of Justice said “when calculating the votes cast when that resolution was adopted, the parliament was right to exclude the taking into account of abstentions.”

In a Facebook post, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga insisted that the abstentions should have been counted, saying that the act of abstaining “implies tacit disagreement” with a vote.

“As before, in the spirit of loyal cooperation, Hungary is ready for dialogue about questions regarding the rule of law as well. But we still reject the politically motivated witch-hunt,” Varga wrote.

It’s the first time the European Parliament has launched such an action. The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, has also taken similar action against Hungary. If four-fifths of Hungary’s 26 EU partners agree “there is a clear risk of a serious breach” of the bloc’s values, Budapest could lose its voting rights.

According to the EU’s founding treaties, the bloc “is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”

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