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EPP Politicians React to Orbán Backing Away from Weber

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.05.08.

At a joint press conference held with Vice-Chancellor of Austria Heinz-Christian Strache on Monday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that “Hungary’s government and its head” would no longer support Manfred Weber. Orbán’s statement elicited strong reactions from several EPP politicians.

Orbán and Weber: From Total Support to Public Break-Up

The reason for Orbán’s withdrawal rests on his interpretation and misrepresentation of a comment the EPP Presidential candidate made while on German TV. Weber explained that he would rather forgo being the President of the European Commission than win it using “populist Fidesz’s votes.” In his response, more than a month later, Orbán pulled support, saying that Weber said he did not want the Hungarian vote: “A Prime Minister of a nation that was insulted like this can have no support for the candidacy of such a person.”

According to their reactions, many EPP party members expect Fidesz to leave the European political party.

On Monday, the leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, told Reuters the whole situation is a clear sign that Orbán and the EPP will part ways:

With his behavior in the last few days and the meeting with [Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini], he has given a clear sign that he will leave.”

The EPP tried to build a bridge to Orbán, she added, but he chose another route.

CSU Leader: Orbán’s Meeting with Salvini ‘Is a Bad Sign’

Later, an EPP group spokesperson told Politico:

Manfred Weber would not be the first president of the Commission elected without the votes of Fidesz.”

The comment was an obvious reference to the fact that the Hungarian PM did not vote in favor of Jean-Claude Juncker for the post in 2014.

Some of the politicians from the European political party see Orbán’s withdrawal of support as a confirmation that the EPP made the right decision in suspending Fidesz. (Although, according to Fidesz, they suspended themselves as the party ‘unilaterally’ chose to temporarily stop ‘exercising its rights.’)

The Great Debate: Did the EPP Suspend Fidesz or Did Fidesz Suspend Itself?

Petri Sarvamaa, a Finnish EPP member of the European Parliament, told Politico: “To me, it proves that the EPP decision to freeze Fidesz did actually go far enough and did do the trick.”

Sebastian Kurz gave a more moderate response to Orbán’s statement. Kurz, the Chancellor of Austria and Chairman of the Austrian People’s Party, told German public service broadcaster Deustchlandfunk that the EPP had already chosen to suspend Fidesz and that after a period of six months, there would be an investigation into the party’s activity before deciding whether or not it could be a part of the party group in the future.

Orbán: Europe Should Take over Austrian Model of Right-Wing Cooperation

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do, and we won’t do that based only on the words of Viktor Orbán,” he stated. “The decision has been made and to which we all stand, from Manfred Weber through me to Markus Söder and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.”

Weber: Merkel and I Determine the Political Direction of the EPP, Not Orbán

On Tuesday, in response to Orbán’s words, Manfred Weber expressed his regret that “Hungary is going in the wrong direction” under the PM. He emphasized that “those who do not believe in our common values, in our common ideals, in the idea for the future of Europe, have to leave the EPP.”

Photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM Press Office