European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, ahead of the vote on launching Article 7 against the Hungarian government in the European Parliament on September 12, allegedly said there is no strong basis to start procedures. He also reportedly claimed this was an attack on the European People’s Party (EPP).

In response, European Parliament vice-presidents David-Maria Sassoli and Sylvie Guillaume, of the S&D Group, issued the following statement: “It’s extremely inappropriate for European Parliament president Antonio Tajani to intervene in this debate in the way he did, censoring the conclusions of the work of a parliamentary committee on the situation in Hungary. This is a report that has found broad consensus across political groups, including the EPP group in which Mr Tajani sits. It is depressing to see someone who is supposed to be speaking for the whole Parliament defending an authoritarian leader in Hungary rather than standing up for European values. The President should remember he is the guarantor of this institution and not a partisan player.”

Sassoli and Guillaume claimed that Europe has “sat by and watched” as Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán erodes the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law in his country. “He has attacked the independent press, universities, scapegoated migrants, and undermined the judiciary.”

“We urge president Tajani to stop undermining the work of the Parliament and act in the European interest not a partisan one.”

Responding to the criticism against him, Tajani issued a counter-statement claiming he “never” took a position on the Hungarian issue. “In a radio interview I was asked how Forza Italia would vote. I made it clear that, as European Parliament President, I would not. I only referred to the Forza Italia position expressed yesterday in the chamber by Elisabetta Gardini MEP. This can be easily verified easily by listening back to the broadcast.”