BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban lashed out Friday over a European Parliament declaration that stated Hungary no longer could be considered a full democracy. Orban dismissed the resolution as “a joke.”
In the declaration that passed 433- 123 with 28 abstentions on Thursday, European Union lawmakers said Hungary had become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” under Orban’s nationalist government and undermined the EU's values to the extent of removing the country from the community of democracies.
Members of the EU legislature specifically raised concerns about Hungary’s constitutional and electoral systems, judicial independence, possible corruption, public procurement irregularities, LGBTQ rights, and media, academic and religious freedoms.
“I find it funny,” Orban said in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, after receiving the highest Serbian decoration from his close populist ally, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
“The only reason we don’t laugh at it is because we’re bored of it. It's a boring joke. It’s the third or fourth time they’ve passed a resolution condemning Hungary in the European Parliament. At first, we thought it was significant. But now we see it as a joke,” he said.
The vote on the resolution was the latest showdown between the EU’s institutions and Orban’s government in Budapest. The bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, is expected to announce Sunday that it is prepared to suspend payments of some EU money to Hungary over its alleged violations. Hungary joined the EU in 2004.
The declaration, while a symbolic gesture, sets Hungary apart from other EU member countries in its alleged failure to uphold values enshrined in the EU treaty, including “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”
The resolution, which was approved during a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, doesn’t impose any penalty on Orban’s government, nor does it bind other EU countries into taking any particular actions.
In Belgrade, Orban also reiterated his criticism of EU sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine that started in February.
“When I look at energy sanctions, I see that we Europeans, who are energy dwarfs, have taken sanctions against an energy giant,” Orban said.
“This is a totally unusual phenomenon in history, and I think that this kind of thing is not usually good. We are very seriously damaged by these sanctions. They are bad for us, they are painful for us, they cost a lot of money,” he added.
Vucic reiterated at a joint press conference with Orban that Serbia would not join the Western sanctions against Russia despite calls form the EU to align its policies with the bloc if it wants to become a member.
“Serbia remains on the European path, but also that it has state and national interests from which it cannot and will not depart,” Vucic said.