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MEPs visit Hungary to update damning report

MEPs visit Hungary to update damning report

A group of MEPs from the parliament's civil liberties committee will arrive in Hungary on Wednesday (29 September) for a three-day visit to update a report on the country's democratic backsliding that triggered a sanctions procedure against Budapest in 2018.
French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, who is responsible for the file on the situation in Hungary, is leading the plus six MEPs, one from each political party.

The visit was originally scheduled for March but had been postponed because of the pandemic.

The MEPs will meet with Hungary's justice minister Judit Varga, interior minister Sándor Pintér, opposition politicians, including Budapest mayor, Gergely Karácsony, NGOs, and organisations that are critical and also those which support the government led by Viktor Orbán.

Back in 2018, when the initial Hungary report was drawn up, the civil liberties committee could not send a mission to Hungary because MEPs from Orbán's Fidesz - then still members of the centre-right EPP - voted against it.

Then Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini was in charge of the Hungary report and she visited the country by herself.

Her report later was adopted by a large majority in parliament, triggering the Article 7 procedure against Hungary.

Delbos-Corfield told EUobserver there is a need to "create dialogue rooted in the institutional framework", and that sending missions to member states is a "very normal" part of the committees' work.

She said the goal is to update the Sargentini-report, but the updated resolution, scheduled to be adopted in December, will not be a "new Article 7 report".

The Article 7 process, which has been dragging on for years in the council of member states, remains to be rooted in the 2018 report.

"There is a need to update on the situation in Hungary, there has been a lot of developments. The Sargentini report will always be the base for the Article 7 process, that is what the rules say. But we do have the legitimacy as European Parliament to make some updates to it," Delbos-Corfield said.

Delbos-Corfield added that the updated report could "make it possible for council and the EU commission to work on new developments" and take in on board in the Article 7 process.

Minister Varga, for her part, accused the parliament of overreaching.

"Finally, we can ask them face to face why do they think that EU institutions can misuse their power. Looking forward to the meeting, we have no illusions though," she tweeted.

Asked about Varga's comments, Delbos-Corfield said it was "important she should meet us, and important for us to meet her", adding that nevertheless "now going on so different directions, that it has become more and more difficult to understand each other".

The Green MEP said what makes it difficult to have an understanding is that the Hungarian government is convinced it can continue its current course and stay in the EU. "That is not possible", she said, adding: "Hungary, as it exists today, is not fulfilling its membership of the EU fully."

The Fidesz delegation in the European parliament said the mission's aim is "to increase pressure on Hungary".

"Brussels and the left are attacking Hungary to allow LGBTQ propaganda into Hungarian kindergartens and schools and to introduce migrants," Fidesz said in a statement.

Delbos-Corfield expected that under the French rotating EU presidency, starting in January, member states will agree on recommendations on Hungary, which would mean stepping up the Article 7 procedure.
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