Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s often toxic relationship with the European Union came to a head on September 12 when the European Parliament decided to trigger the so-called Article 7 procedure under EU law which would suspend some of Budapest’s rights in the EU institutions after Orban’s government was found to be a “systemic threat” to European values in the county.

The measure does not immediately penalise Hungary, but it allows for sanctions to be imposed and a formal warning will be sent to Orban for violating the EU’s values.

epa07012567 Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban listens to a speech in the plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 11 September 2018. In the afternoon, the European Parliament is debating a report by Greens MP Judith Sargentini. Among other things, the government in Budapest should curtail the rights of minorities, dissenters and journalists, damage the independence of the judiciary and restrict religious freedom.  EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban listens to a speech in the plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2018. The European Parliament voted to censure Orban’s government for its repeated attacks on minorities, dissenters and journalists, and the independence of the judiciary. EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER

The ruling is the first time that the European Parliament has considered invoking the Article 7 sanctions process against one of the 28 Member States. The European Commission launched Article 7 proceedings against Poland in 2017 over its judicial reforms.

Orban, whose far firebrand right populism and Eurosceptic policies have had him at loggerheads with Brussels for years, recently introduced a series of laws that limited the independence of the judiciary and severely curtailed the independence of Hungary’s Central Bank and largely silenced the press.

MEPs were forced into action after Orban’s government introduced a popular “Stop Brussels” consultation and accused the EU of conspiring to promote illegal immigration. Nicknamed the “Stop Soros” law, the new legislation also bars aid from being delivered to illegal migrants. The controversial law also targeted a private university funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a Hungarian Jew who fled the country after Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union following the conclusion of the Second World War.

Speaking to German broadcaster DW following the Parliament’s decision, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he had given up on trying to talk with Orban about his hardline policies, saying big differences exist between the two leaders.

“I constantly tried to explain to Orban that the radical rhetoric he’s directing towards Europe helps neither him nor the EU,” said Juncker.