The European People’s Party is trying to create the legal means to expel Fidesz, and has set up a “task force” for the purpose, according to EU news outlet EUrologus, in reference to an article by Politico. The decision comes only days after EPP group leader Manfred Weber’s comment promising the fate of Fidesz to be a top priority for the European party. In reaction, the new leader of the Fidesz EP group called it shocking that they had to find out from the press about the internal debates of the presidency, also adding that it is too early to talk about the expulsion of Fidesz. The party has been suspended in the EPP for almost two years.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the EPP proposed changes to the group’s rules of procedure to allow for “the possibility of the collective termination of membership of a group of Members rather than just individual membership.”
It also envisages that a decision can be made by a simple majority instead of the current 2/3 majority, which at the moment is needed to remove MEPs from the party group.
The task force consists of five MEPs, including Othmar Karas, who not long ago initiated the expulsion of European lawmaker Tamás Deutsch.
Fact Deutsch had caused outrage among other EPP group members after his critical statements in which he compared favoring comments made on the rule of law criteria by Parliament group leader Manfred Weber to the slogans of the Gestapo and Hungary’s communist-era political police. Deutsch apologized to Weber several times, and the expulsion motion was eventually not put to a vote. However, he was denied all rights to speak on behalf of the EPP and is barred from holding any formal positions on behalf of the group, indefinitely.
Besides Karas, the other members of the panel (Esteban González Pons, Jan Olbrycht, Esther de Lange, Paulo Range) are also known for their critical attitude towards Hungary’s governing party.
The committee will also look into whether it should remain an automatic process for an MEP who is elected on an EPP party ticket to become a member of the group.
According to EUrologus, the European People’s Party no longer insists on deciding the fate of the suspended Fidesz first, as this could take place in the autumn at the earliest.
Fact Fidesz’s membership has been suspended in the EPP since 2019 following a joint proposal from the European People’s Party Presidency and Fidesz. According to the then EPP president Joseph Daul, “We cannot compromise on democracy, rule of law, freedom of press, academic freedom, or minorities’ rights. And anti-EU rhetoric is unacceptable.” According to the Fidesz narrative, they themselves asked for their own suspension, waiting for the EPP to change direction and return to its Christian democrat roots instead of promoting liberalism, while the EPP claimed that they suspended the Hungarian government party.
The group would like to decide on an amendment to the Rules of Procedure before the end of February.
The approved decision comes only days after group leader Manfred Weber’s comments about the “great responsibility” of CDU’s next leader, to be elected this coming weekend, in making up their mind about whether Hungary’s ruling party still belongs in the EPP.
“The past weeks, in particular the veto against the rule of law mechanism in the EU budget, was a setback for the cooperation,” Weber told Politico in an interview, adding that it is “certainly” going to be one of their first decisions to make.
Fidesz EP group leader: too early to talk about Fidesz expulsion
Commenting on the EPP presidency’s decision, Kinga Gál, the new leader of the Fidesz EP group, said that some would argue that it was created specifically for Fidesz, which shows a very strange attitude on the part of the party family.
She is hopeful that the initiative will not be accepted in the end and common sense will finally prevail, otherwise, those who think or voice their opinion differently could easily be “sliced off” from the EPP.
Kinga Gál also emphasized that the European People’s Party had always remained strong because it had been able to combine a wide range of opinions. Once it starts to exclude political groups it will be hard to tell what makes the political formation the one that includes the most voices in the ranks of the European parties.
She also called it shocking that they have to find out about the presidency’s internal debates through Politico, which according to Gál raises serious problems. Many people are outraged, thus the leadership should think about their next steps.
Kinga Gál stressed that it was too early to talk about the possible exclusion of Fidesz, especially since no debate of the said regulations could be held yet, as the conditions due to the coronavirus do not make it possible.
PMO Head: EPP in trouble
The European People’s Party is suffering a leadership crisis, recording its worst performance of the past twenty years in the latest European parliamentary elections, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday in response to a question about whether ruling Fidesz representatives planned to quit the party family.
Gergely Gulyás told a regular government press briefing that Fidesz was the strongest and best-organised member of the EPP, representing the values of the EPP’s founding fathers. He said Fidesz was willing to help the EPP if there were demand for it, adding that
Fidesz has other political opportunities and political alternatives”
In response to a question concerning Germany’s CDU electing a new leader, he said the election was important not only for Germany but for the whole of Europe, considering that the CDU’s leader would be in pole position among the candidates for chancellor. Gulyás expressed hope that the CDU would get a leader who sought pragmatic cooperation with central Europe, despite potential differences of opinion.
Featured photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Press Office/MTI