MEPs on Thursday easily adopted a resolution lambasting Hungaryâ€™s new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and urging the EU to â€œimmediately take legal action,â€ including withholding EU funds.
A total of 459 MEPs voted in favor of the resolution, with 147 opposing. The text branded Hungaryâ€™s law â€”Â which bans the portrayal of homosexuality and gender transitioning in content for minors â€”Â as a â€œclear breachâ€ of EU law. And it put the bill in the broader context of a â€œgradual dismantling of fundamental rights in Hungary.â€
If Hungary continues this pattern, the resolution said, the EU should deny Budapestâ€™s coronavirus recovery funds. European Commission officials have already said they will â€”Â at least temporarily â€”Â withhold approval of Hungaryâ€™s plan to spend â‚¬7.2 billion in EU recovery fund money over concerns it doesnâ€™t adequately prevent corruption.
The resolution is non-binding, aimed instead at putting more pressure on the European Commission and European Council to respond with legal tools to a bill that has caused international outrage. The new law went into effect on Thursday.
Leaders from around the EU confronted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor OrbÃ¡n over the measure at the last EU leadersâ€™ gathering in June, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the bill a â€œdisgraceâ€ in a European Parliament debate on Wednesday. She promised to launch a legal infringement procedure if Hungary â€œdoes not set things right.â€
In the resolution, MEPs pressed the Commission to follow through on von der Leyenâ€™s vow, calling for â€œan accelerated infringement procedure,â€ a process that could lead to financial penalties for Hungary.
The text also called on the Council to trigger the next phase of its ongoing Article 7 procedure against Hungary â€” a stalled punishment mechanism launched in 2018 over rule-of-law concerns. It wants the Council to recommend Budapest â€œrepeal the lawâ€ and organize a hearing in September to discuss the country.
Finally, the resolution demanded the Commission only approve Hungaryâ€™s pandemic recovery funds if it can prove the money â€œwould not contribute to implementing the Law.â€
The measure was supported by a majority within the European Peopleâ€™s Party, the large center-right group that parted ways with OrbÃ¡nâ€™s Fidesz party in March. But some French, Spanish and Eastern European MEPs within the group either voted against the text or abstained.
The Commission has been laying the groundwork for legal action against Hungary over the anti-LGBTQ+ bill since June, when it asked the Hungarian government for more information about the measure and said it would move to formal legal action if the law went into effect.
Then, earlier this week, the Commission said it would hold off on authorizing Hungaryâ€™s pandemic recovery fund plan.Â The move was seen as a sign that outrage over the anti-LGBTQ+ measure will make it difficult for Brussels to funnel billions to Budapest.
MEPs also reiterated in their resolution a call for the EU to finally implement a newly installed tool that links EU funds to rule-of-law promises. The mechanism has technically been in place since January but was put on hold amid ongoing legal challenges.