United Nations rights experts express concern over Hungary's new immigration measures

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The mood at the European Parliament in Strasbourg turned volatile on Tuesday when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, during a tense debate on issues including his country's rule of law, accused European representatives of insulting Hungary.

The EU lawmakers voted 448-197 in favour of a report recommending the launch of a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's EU voting rights.

The move saw some members of the European People's Party bloc - of which Mr Orban's Fidesz movement is a member - vote against their ally in Budapest.

If also approved by national leaders, Hungary could face disciplinary action.

Despite the criticism, Orban said he was "readying to support the EPP" in next year's European Parliament elections.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told European Parliament that Brussels' actions against Budapest "violates the EU treaty".

"We stand up for the rights of all Europeans, including Hungarian citizens and we defend our European values", said Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green parliament member who led the effort.

For years, Orban has successfully deflected much of the global condemnation about Hungary's electoral system, press freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees and limitations on the functioning of non-governmental organizations, but criticism has been growing even within the European People's Party, to which his Fidesz party belongs.

Orban has said the mostly Muslim refugees pose an existential threat to Europe's Christian civilisation. He has also waged a vociferous campaign against Hungarian-born, Jewish American billionaire philanthropist George Soros and the liberal causes he backs in formerly-communist eastern Europe.

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In July, the EU executive body warned it could take Budapest to the European Court of Justice over laws under which anyone assisting an undocumented migrant could be jailed for a year.

"We are not going to leave the EPP", Orban said.

A unanimous vote is required, though Poland is expected to block it from passing.

To become the first-ever case of the European Parliament asking EU capitals to launch the punitive mechanism against one of their own, it must win the backing of at least 376 lawmakers and two thirds of the votes cast.

On Tuesday Weber said the European Union might need to consider launching the sanctions procedure, under Article 7.1 of the Lisbon Treaty, if Budapest did not address the criticisms.

A group of United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday expressed concern [press release] regarding Hungary's new immigration measures.

The Commission has preferred to pressure Budapest through standard legal powers, but the head of the European Union executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, also an EPP member, said he would have voted for the move if he were a lawmaker.

"It also sends out an important message to all member countries that the European Union is not prepared to compromise on human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights". The European Parliament voted to censure Orban's government for its repeated attacks on minorities, dissenters and journalists, and the independence of the judiciary.