EU registers petition for sanctions against Hungary

By bne IntelliNews November 30, 2015

The European Commission has registered an initiative launched by the European Humanist Federation (EHF) that seeks to strip Hungary of its voting rights in the bloc, the EU executive said on November 30.

The EHF, an umbrella organisation of 55 humanist and secularist organisations from 22 European countries, launched on October 2 a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) calling on the commission to trigger Article 7 of the EU treaty for alleged breaches of the EU's fundamental values by Hungary. The initiative, called Wake up Europe, claims that “since 2010, Viktor Orban’s government has repeatedly taken antidemocratic and xenophobic measures that openly violate the basic principles of the rule of law”.

“Furthermore, the unacceptable way the Hungarian authorities have treated migrants seems to have started influencing other member states where the democratic culture is still recent and fragile,” the petition adds.

The ECI is a mechanism introduced by the Lisbon Treaty which enables citizens to call on the European Commission to act on matters of EU competence. In order to be valid, the initiative must be launched by at least seven EU citizens resident in at least seven different member states. It must gather at least 1mn signatures within a year.

The College of Commissioners discussed the legal admissibility of the proposed ECI on November 24, and concluded that the legal conditions for the registration of the ECI were fulfilled, according to a statement by the commission.

If the ECI receives the signatures of 1mn validated statements of support from at least seven EU states, the commission must decide whether or not it would act, and explain the reasons for that choice.

The decision to accept the petition was taken while Hungarian commissioner Tibor Navracsics was not present, EU Observer claims. Navracsics, who is from the ruling Fidesz party, protested in a letter to his fellow commissioners. Article 7 of the EU treaty states sanctions can be taken against a member state in case of "serious and persistent breach of EU values".

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