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UK Tories' support for Orban - Shared values must be upheld in all EU countries | View

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UK Tories' support for Orban - Shared values must be upheld in all EU countries | View

People attend a demonstration against Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban
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By Catherine Stihler

FREEDOM of speech, tolerance, justice and equality. These are values shared across our continent, and they are values which must be upheld across the EU.

That’s why, last month, I voted with hundreds of MEP colleagues to trigger the EU’s most serious disciplinary procedures against Hungary.

The Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán has been clamping down on rights and freedoms, attacking its own citizens and especially migrants.

Orbán has said he does not want Hungary to be a ‘country of migrants’. But the EU is a union of countries which collectively fights for migrant rights.

It’s little wonder that what little support that Orbán can muster comes from the likes of Nigel Farage, the former leader of the hard-right pro-Brexit UKIP party.

But it’s not just migration that the Hungarian administration is targeting. The government has recently introduced the so-called 'Soros Law' that gives the state extraordinary powers to jail its opponents.

Orbán’s recent successful re-election campaign was widely criticised for its attacks on Hungarian-American George Soros and the use of anti-Semitic tropes.

There are also grave concerns over the functioning of the constitution and the electoral system, the independence of the judiciary, the rights of judges, corruption and conflicts of interest.

And the list continues: fears over freedom of expression and academic freedom as well.

In the European Parliament, UK Labour MEPs took a stand. We believed the Parliament needed to send a clear and unambiguous position to EU leaders that the EU's values, fundamental rights and the rule of law must be upheld in all EU countries.

We did just that.

The vote was carried with the support of 448 MEPs, narrowly clearing the required two-thirds majority.

Many of Orbán’s allies in the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) deserted him.

Those expressing their disgust also included fellow Scottish MEPs from the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Conservatives.

But it didn’t include most of the Conservative MEPs from England.

In opposing the measures against Orbán’s government, the Tories – who sit in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group - condoned his actions.

Sadly, we shouldn’t be too surprised.

In Brussels and Strasbourg, the Tories sit with Islamophobes, anti-Semites and white supremacists.

The Tories recently entered an alliance with the far-right Swedish Democrats, and the group already counts as members the likes of Poland's Law and Justice Party (PiS), whose leader and Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki earlier this year introduced a 'Holocaust Law' that makes it a civil offence to suggest Polish complicity in Nazi crimes.

Other members come from the Finns Party, whose new leader Jussi Halla-aho MEP has been convicted of the racist crime of disturbing religious worship; the Danish People's Party, an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party that last month introduced a ban on face veils; Belgium's far-right New Flemish Alliance; and various other fringe parties, like Latvia's For Fatherland and Freedom, Poland's Right Wing of the Republic, and Slovakia's Ordinary People.

European politicians can no longer turn a blind eye to what is going in Hungary. Unlike most Tories, I was proud to stand up for our common European values and do what I can to prevent others from following the example set by Orbán's government.

Catherine Stihler is a Labour Member of the European Parliament for Scotland.

Opinions expressed in View articles are those of the author.