The European Court of Justice has ruled that the European Parliament was within its rights to have started proceedings against Hungary for rule of law violations.
The case was brought forward by the Hungarian government nearly three years ago after MEPs voted to trigger for the first time a procedure known as Article 7 in September 2018, which is used to determine whether a member state has breached the bloc’s founding values.
Budapest argues that the vote in the Parliament should not have been counted due to abstentions by some MEPs not being factored into the two-thirds majority needed for the vote to pass.
But the European Court of Justice has now rejected this notion, saying that abstentions "do not have to be counted".
If Hungary is eventually found to have breached the bloc’s founding values, then it could lead to the suspension of certain EU membership rights, including voting rights.
Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, the MEP in charge of reporting on the situation in Hungary said: "Today’s ruling once again proves that the European Parliament was right to overcome the European Commission’s inaction on the rule of law by triggering the Article 7 procedure against the Hungarian government.
"This ruling clearly sets out that the Commission is not the only 'guardian of the Treaties' and when there are serious threats to European values, the Parliament can and must act.
"More than ever, the Council urgently needs to take up its responsibility to protect the rule of law and take action on Hungary. The Parliament has shown its willingness to act for years, yet the Council has not organised a single hearing of Hungary since December 2019."
In a post on Facebook, Hungary's Justice Minister Judit Varga said that her country is "ready for dialogue on issues related to the rule of law in the spirit of loyal cooperation", but the pursuit of rule of law violations against it are a “politically motivated witch hunt”.
European affairs ministers from all EU member states are due to discuss the ongoing Article 7 procedures against Hungary on June 22 at the General Affairs Council for the first time since December 2019.