EPP group on path to suspend Orbán’s Fidesz party
Rule change will make it possible to isolate Hungarian PM's lawmakers.
MEPs from the European People’s Party moved a step closer to excluding Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party from their group after agreeing new suspension rules, according to officials and lawmakers.
The rules, agreed at a closed-door meeting Friday by group leader Manfred Weber and heads of EPP national delegations, would allow the group to suspend an entire member party, rather than just a single MEP.
The rules are expected to be approved by the required two-thirds majority at a group meeting next Wednesday. Once the new rules are in place, several officials and MEPs said they are confident that the group will vote to suspend the 11-strong Fidesz faction — although no date for such a vote has yet been set.
If both votes go against Fidesz, it would mark a significant moment in relations between the Hungarian party and the center-right European political family. The relationship has long been fractious, due to attacks by Fidesz officials on EPP leaders and policies, and to concerns over the rule of law in Hungary. But the two sides have stuck together in the European Parliament until now.
“We are now on the right path to suspend all Fidesz MEPs from the group,” said Christophe Hansen, the head of the EPP’s Luxembourgish delegation, who took part in the meeting with Weber. “Those MEPs will still be able to table amendments but they will be muzzled, and if I was one of theirs, I would not want to be muzzled.”
Fidesz has been suspended from membership of the EPP party since March 2019 but its MEPs remain part of the EPP group in the European Parliament, despite moves by some more centrist members to kick them out.
The move to change the suspension rules was set in motion after the EPP sanctioned Tamás Deutsch, the head of Fidesz faction in the Parliament, in December for comparing comments by Weber to the slogans of the Gestapo and Hungary’s communist-era secret police.
The incident sparked outrage among many EPP MEPs who had grown tired of provocations from Orbán’s party. They complained that the rules on suspension were outdated and wanted to be able to force out an entire delegation of MEPs.
Previous attempts to suspend Fidesz from the Parliament group or to expel it from the EPP party alliance completely have foundered on a reluctance to take action by members of Germany’s governing Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian CSU sister party.
Asked last month about Fidesz, new CDU leader Armin Laschet predicted difficult negotiations but did not state clearly whether he would back kicking the Hungarian party out of the EPP.
“I believe we need the Hungarians and the Poles in the European Union. I don’t want them to drift into right-wing radicalism. But the EPP has clear conditions. And we will demand that Viktor Orbán respects them,” he told Germany’s ZDF television.