Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, said Tuesday he will vote for a motion declaring Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government is at risk of breaching core EU values — but will give other members of the center-right group a free vote.
“I will vote in favor of Article 7,” Weber said after a meeting with EPP members including Orbán, referring to the procedure that can lead to a member country losing its voting rights inside the EU. “I think we had enough dialogue.”
Members of the European parliament will challenge Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán to his face on Tuesday in a debate about the rule of law in the country.
MEPs will decide on Wednesday whether to trigger a little-tested EU rule of law procedure, which would mark a significant escalation in the bloc’s response to Orbán. Since the prime minister returned to power in 2010 he has presided over a weakening of press freedom, an erosion of judicial independence and the alleged misspending of EU funds by his friends and family.
But it is unclear which way the vote will go. Orbán is likely to benefit from some support from his political group, the European People’s party (EPP) – the pan-European alliance of centre-right politicians that includes Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker. Many other MEPs, including the UK’s Conservatives, see the action as a politically motivated encroachment on a state’s rights, and are likely to oppose it.