Greece’s centre-right New Democracy party said yesterday (12 September) that it would vote in favour of the Sargentini report on activating Article 7 against Hungary.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the main opposition New Democracy party (EPP-affiliated) made a strong statement ahead of today’s vote in the European Parliament, noting that his party’s MEPs will vote in favor of the report. Greece has five MEPs from New Democracy.
MEPs in Strasbourg debated yesterday a report by MEP Judith Sargentini (Greens, Netherlands) on whether Article 7 should be activated over the existence of a serious breach by Hungary of the EU’s core values.
A vote in the plenary is due today, and EPP members are free to vote according to their conscience.
Free vote for @EPP parliamentarians tomorrow.
This means that likelihood Article 7 procedure against Orban‘s Hungary will be triggered increases greatly.
— Maximilian Hofmann (@maxhofmann) September 11, 2018
“New Democracy will vote in favor of the Sargentini Report, inviting the Council to proceed according to Article 7 against Hungary,” Mitsotakis said.
“We cannot and will not compromise on issues that relate to our core democratic values and principles,” Mitsotakis emphasised.
It’s not the first time that Mitsotakis expresses his disagreement with the actions of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
In March 2016, Mitsotakis clashed with Orbán at an EPP summit on the refugee crisis.
Greek media reported that the two leaders had an “intense” dialogue when Orbán welcomed the fact that the northern border of Greece was closed and migrants were isolated in the country.
“How do you dare say so, when this led to a humanitarian crisis in my country and shamed Europe?” Mitsotakis reportedly exclaimed.
The stance of the center-right European People’s Party lawmakers will be crucial for the final vote considering that the S&D, liberal ALDE and leftist GUE-NGL have already pushed for the Sargentini report.
Sources close to the issue told EURACTIV.com that there is a number of Christian-Democrats MEPs from the German delegation (CDU) who wish to vote in favor of the report, while support for the report is also expected from EPP’s Scandinavian members.
Henna Virkkunen, an MEP from Finland’s National Coalition Party, tweeted, “Orban claims the European Parliament wants to condemn the Hungarian people. Absolutely not! We are defending Union’s fundamental values and the citizens’ fundamental rights. This includes the Hungarians too. A breach of values has an impact on all the member states and mutual trust.”
Speaking at an EPP event last week in Brussels, European Commission Vice-President Jurki Katainen discretely criticised Orbán’s government,
“Even if you win elections, it doesn’t allow you to politicise judiciary or destroy independent media. We have a problem in Europe, and we need to address it,” he said.
In a sign of Scandinavian dissatisfaction with the Hungarian premier, sources noted that during Katainen’s speech, Alexander Stubb, a possible candidate for the next Commission’s Presidency, was applauding. Both Katrainen and Stubb were perceived as candidates to run for leading candidates of EPP to succeed Juncker. In the meantime, Katainen announced he is withdrawing.