By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – The European Parliament has declared that Hungary is no longer a fully functioning democracy and has turned into an “electoral autocracy” led by a “hybrid regime.”
A report, which noticed a breakdown in democracy, fundamental rights, and the rule of law, was accepted by 81 percent of the European legislators present.
Thursday’s move was a setback for Hungary’s hardline Prime Minister Viktor Orban as he seeks to unlock billions of euros in European Union aid.
While not binding, the report was due to put additional pressure on the EU’s executive European Commission to speed up sanctions against Hungary.
Under the so-called Article 7 procedure, Hungary could lose billions of euros in EU support for development as well as coronavirus recovery and even lose its voting rights within the 27-nation bloc.
A leaked internal document initially showed that the European Commission could already withhold up to 8.8 billion euros as part of broader measures against the country. After more talks, the Commission confirmed Sunday that it had recommended the bloc suspend around 7.5 billion euros (dollars) in funding to Hungary over concerns about democratic backsliding and the possible mismanagement of EU money.
Orbán, viewed as increasingly authoritarian by critics, has ruled Hungary since 2010, using his party’s two-thirds parliamentary majority to push through controversial legislation.
Hungary will be given until mid-November to get its house in order, according to sources familiar with the talks.
Amid mounting pressure, Hungary’s rightwing government is due next week to propose a raft of laws to combat corruption.
That includes an anti-corruption body to be advised by a commission composed of government delegates and non-governmental organizations.
It comes after EU investigators and investigative journalists discovered that billions of EU funds were spent on projects by companies run by family members and friends of Prime Minister Orbán.
His government has also faced questions over its interference in previously independent institutes ranging from media and courts to churches and other religious groups.
Orbán also faces questions over traditional family policies that critics say limit the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.
While the government has pledged to meet the most urgent demands, critics fear the European Commission is ready to accept “cosmetic changes” to defuse the conflicts over EU funds.
“The Commission has made a half-hearted deal with the Hungarian government on the kind of change they want to see,” said Daniel Freund, a German Green legislator. “There is a very short timeframe and … to expect that the damage that Orbán has done with [his] constitutional majority over 12 years, can now be repaired in a matter of weeks, or a couple of months, I think is optimistic, to put it mildly.”
Yet, in a reaction, European legislators of Hungary’s ruling rightwing Fidesz party condemned Thursday’s vote and criticism.
“The people of Europe are enduring an energy crisis thanks to Brussels’ failed sanctions, yet the left-wing European Parliament’s priority, even so, is to attack Hungary.”
Brussels, it said, “wants to punish Hungary … and withhold the money that is due to the country.”
Fidesz attributed the vote to the government’s refusal “to allow illegal migrants into Hungary and LGBTQ propaganda into schools,” as well as its opposition to “Brussels’ sanctions that have caused the energy crisis.”
Despite mounting pressure, Hungary’s government has refused to accept all sanctions against Russia, citing its dependency on Russian energy. The government also says it does not allow military deliveries through its territory to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. However, a U.S. security source told Worthy News that “weapons still get through unofficially.”