Pro-EU activists protest against Viktor Orban in Budapest
The hardline leader has been a thorn in the EU’s side for years and despite repeated warnings Mr Orban continues to flout the bloc’s rules.
His government is under investigation for new fewer than 66 infringements, several of which involve cases of alleged discrimination against non-Hungarians.
Mr Orban’s infamous ‘Let’s stop Brussels!’ campaign tops a rap sheet which also includes his refusal to take part in the legally binding EU refugee relocation scheme, a campaign against foreign-funded NGOs, a new asylum law which includes automatic detention for all asylum-seekers and a controversial new education bill that critics say was designed to close down the Central European University backed by US financier George Soros.
Viktor Orban has ruffled EU feathers with his hardline approach
We have to be on a very firm legal ground before we start infringement procedures
The European Commission has warned Mr Orban that it is now considering opening infringement procedures against his government which could result in heavy fines although first vice president Frans Timmermans remains cautious about taking further steps.
He said: “We have to be on a very firm legal ground before we start infringement procedures.
“Actions taken so far have been mainly on technical issues but this time the protection of Article 2 of the EU treaties — the very core of EU values — is at stake.”
One sanction could see Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party booted out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) – of which Mr Orban is a member along with Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
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Viktor Orban's tub-thumping Easter speech would suggest he is unmoved by EU threats
Other penalties could include a rule-of-law procedure leading to the suspension of Hungary’s EU voting rights although the Commission would be reluctant to go down that route.
Financial sanctions are also available to the Commission which could withhold some of the £30billion Hungary is set to receive in EU funds to finance motorways, railways, energy projects and other schemes.
The European Parliament has already approved a new mechanism for monitoring the rule of law which could set up a panel of independent experts to make country-specific recommendations during an annual fitness check of each EU member.
Campaigners take to the streets in protest at Hungary's news education bill
Powerful images as migrants protest in Hungary
Tue, April 4, 2017
Migrants protest outside Budapest's Keleti Railway Station after it was closed off by police to prevent people travelling on to western Europe
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A migrant taunts Hungarian riot police as they fire tear gas and water cannon on the Serbian side of the border, near Roszke
The threat of sanctions has not appeared to calm Mr Orban’s nationalistic rhetoric.
In a typically belligerent Easter speech, he said: “Today we live in a time when international politics is a battlefield.
“The independence and freedom of European nations are at stake. And at the centre of the battlefield is migration.
“This is what our future stands or falls on – the fate of Europe.
“The question is whether the character of European nations will be determined by the same spirit, civilisation, culture and mentality as in our parents’ and grandparents’ time, or by something completely different.”