The European Union parliament has overwhelmingly voted to censure Hungary over alleged “breaches of the EU’s core values.” The vote triggered the “Article 7” procedure of the EU constitution, paving the wave for economic sanctions and other punishing measures.

The EU parliamentarians voted 448 to 197 in support of a resolution that accused “Hungary of threatening the rule of law by hampering press and academic freedoms, cracking down on NGO funding and denying rights to minorities and migrants,” European media reports said. Parliamentarians cheered and applauded at the read out of the vote. It is the first time the punitive article has been triggered by parliament against an EU member.

Ahead of the vote, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused the EU elite of  “abuse of power” in front of the EU Parliament. Orban defended his country’s tough border regulations to curb illegal migrant influx. “We have defended Hungary, and we have defended Europe,” he said.

The Hungarian prime minister did not hide his irreconcilable differences with Brussels. “We have a different picture about the nature of Christianity in Europe and the role of nations and cultures in our country,” he told the parliamentarians.

The only support for the beleaguered country came from Poland as the country declared its intentions to veto any attempt by the EU to impose sanctions on Hungary on Wednesday night. Warsaw is also at loggerheads with the EU over its stance on refugee intake.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported Wednesday’s proceeding that took place in Strasbourg, France:

Members of the European Parliament voted to censure the Hungarian government on Wednesday for eroding democracy and failing to uphold fundamental European Union values.

The measure to trigger Article 7 sanctions procedures garnered the necessary majority needed to pass, with 448 voting in favor of the motion, 197 against and 48 abstentions. The move means that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government could eventually lose its EU voting rights. (…)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who gave a speech in parliament before the vote, told DW that he had “given up” on trying to talk with Orban about his hardline policies, saying “there are big differences” between the two of them.

Manfred Weber, the head of the Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the EU parliament, told Hungary to decide “between nationalism and Europe.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President  Jean-Claude Juncker openly backed discipline measures against Hungary while “warning against growing nationalism” in the continent, media reports said.

The move was welcomed by the mainstream European media and pro-EU activist groups. German weekly Die Welt ran an editorial titled “Orbans Defective Democracy.” The UK newspaper The Guardian backed the need for disciplinary action against Hungary, claiming “Human rights are under attack from populist and nationalist movements across the world – in Hungary, Italy, Poland, the US and elsewhere.”

Heather Grabbe, head of George Soros’s Open Society European Policy Institute, welcomed the vote and described it as a “historic stand in defending the EU’s democratic values and the rights of its citizens.”

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto correctly dismissed the vote as “petty revenge” by Brussels against his country’s tough immigration policies.

By targeting Hungary, the EU is sending a signal to other eastern European countries opposed to open door policy towards migrants and refugees. Hungary’s Orban has been on the forefront of opposing the Brussels’ massive migrant resettlement plan. Under the “EU migrant relocation and resettlement scheme” Brussels wants to allocate national quotas for hundreds of thousands of migrants crossing European outer borders–a move bitterly opposed by Orban and his eastern European allies. Triggering Article 7 is EU’s way of forcing Hungary to accept its terms and break the collective resolve of the eastern European member states.

Video: EU Parliament vote to punish Hungary 

[Cover image via YouTube]