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EU Votes On Punishing Hungary For Violating EU 'Common Values'


The European Parliament has voted for the first time to punish a country for trampling on European Union values. The country we're talking about is Hungary, where the right-wing government is accused of weakening democracy and mistreating asylum-seekers. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Berlin, and she sent this report.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Proponents of sanctioning Hungary include Dutch European Parliament member Judith Sargentini. She told fellow lawmakers the unprecedented vote was about a lot more than stopping the hard-line Hungarian government from strong-arming the country's courts, journalists and NGOs.


JUDITH SARGENTINI: We all have the task to protect the rights of European citizens to live in a society in which pluralism, nondiscrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail. It is therefore our duty to act.

NELSON: Even Manfred Weber is critical of the Hungarian government's behavior. He heads the Parliament's powerful European People's Party to which Hungary's ruling party belongs.


MANFRED WEBER: And I have to tell you that we have to defend our ideas, our common values in all our political families. And we have to convince each other that we only have a future if we are sticking together. In this spirit, the founding fathers of Europe created the European Union - to stick to the rule of law in every situation.

NELSON: Today's vote will trigger hearings that could ultimately strip Hungary of its rights and benefits as a member of the EU bloc. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and shares his hard-line stance against Muslim migrants, also approves of the European Parliament push to sanction the Hungarian government. But Orban remained defiant.



NELSON: He told European lawmakers the vote was an insult to the honor of the Hungarian people who overwhelmingly elected his ruling party. He accused the EU of trying to turn Hungary into a state filled with migrants. Orban also warned the vote could tear the European Union apart. That's a widely held concern here in Europe given the risk of a backlash by the growing number of voters who question the EU's migration policy and liberal values. Many analysts here predict such a backlash will play into the hands of politicians eager to weaken, if not dismantle, the European Union. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLNKSPC'S "STICKY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.