EU foolishly debates sanctions on Hungary

The European Union doesn’t seem to have learned much from the ongoing Brexit debacle. The reason I say this is because they will be meeting this week to discuss imposing sanctions on Hungary, and this is news which isn’t going to put Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban in a very good mood. The EU can drum up a list of reasons for considering this action, but the real driver is obvious, as Orban has already pointed out. Countries refusing to toe the Union’s line on forced immigration policies incur their displeasure. The problem for the EU here is that they really don’t have much leverage to enforce their decrees. (Associated Press)

The European Parliament is set to debate a move toward imposing political sanctions on Hungary for policies that opponents say are against democratic EU values and the rule of law.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who will speak at Tuesday’s debate in Strasbourg, France, says the initiative is really meant to punish Hungary for its tough anti-immigration stance.

A vote on the proposal to launch the rule-of-law procedure, taking place Wednesday, could even lead to Hungary losing its EU voting rights.

This isn’t a done deal yet. British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that her MEPs will be voting against the sanctions, seeking to protect Hungary’s independence. Rather than a simple majority, the measure would require two-thirds of members to vote in favor in order to pass, and much of the former Eastern Bloc is expected to vote against it. Britain could sink the effort if it’s a close call.

EU leaders aren’t saying it specifically, but they’re still fuming over Hungary’s refusal to follow Germany’s lead in accepting increasing numbers of migrants from Syria and Iraq. But if they think the threat of sanctions is going to sway Orban they should really pause and consider their recent history in dealing with him. As you may already know, when the EU last told Hungary to open their southern border, Orban responded by building a heavily fortified fence along the entire stretch of land. When Brussels complained about that, Orban sent them a bill for half the cost of the fence. (That fence, by the way, succeeded in cutting their illegal immigration rate by 99%.)

Another thing for the EU to keep in mind is that Orban in no way feels like he answers to the European Union and has demonstrated that repeatedly. He answers to his own people and his policies have been so popular back home that he and his party cruised to a supermajority during the last elections. The country has already tossed around the idea of following Britain in exiting the EU, and if they push him hard enough, that could still happen. And if Hungary goes, it could start a domino effect with other eastern European members.