In response to Hungary’s treatment of refugees over the past weeks, the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) fraction of the European Parliament has requested sanctions be imposed on the member state. The requested sanction is the activation of article 7 of the Lisbon treaty, also known as the ‘nuclear bomb’ of sanctions.

The request by ALDE was made on Monday (21 September), the same day as the Hungarian parliament authorised the army to use non-lethal weapons against immigrants.

In the past, ALDE has repeatedly requested Hungary be sanctioned over its handling of the country’s democracy and what Sophie In ‘t Veld (ALDE’s first vice-president) describes as “populist, autocratic and xenophobic” practices. Now, considering the recent turbulent developments surrounding Hungary’s criminal law and immigration policy, Louis Michel of the liberal fraction argues that “the line has been crossed”.

The liberal group states that Orbán “denies [the EU’s] most fundamental values”, and urges the EPP to end its collaboration with the Hungarian Prime Minister

The sanction described in Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty is a temporary loss of EU membership rights. However, before such a punishment would be applied, the Member State in question shall be heard by the Council, which may address recommendations.

Viktor Orbán became Prime Minister in 2010 and has since amended the constitution and passed legislation criticised throughout the EU. In the current refugee crisis, the Hungarian parliament has passed laws allowing for the imprisonment of people found crossing the border irregularly for up to five years, allowing for the army to use rubber bullets and tear gas-grenades against refugees, and considerably decreasing chances for asylum to be granted.