The European People’s Party (EPP) is scheduled to possibly vote on Tamás Deutsch’s expulsion from the party’s EP group on Wednesday after the Fidesz MEP made Gestapo and Stalinist comparisons following a comment made by Manfred Weber. According to the latest news, Deutsch’s expulsion could trigger some hard consequences as all the Fidesz-KDNP MEPs could leave the faction. Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister held talks with EU-sceptic, far-right EP-member parties last week.
Tamás Deutsch’ comments, the topic of tomorrow’s potential vote, came amid an already tense EPP-Fidesz relationship (Fidesz’s membership is suspended in the party family, but not in the faction). In response to EPP faction leader Manfred Weber’s “if you have nothing to hide, you don’t have to be afraid [of the rule of law mechanism and checks],” the Fidesz founder two weeks ago said “I well remember that the Gestapo and the ÁVO [ÁVO/ÁVH was the dreadful Communist secret police in Hungary, operating until 1956] had the same slogan.” After experiencing harsh backlash, he claimed he had apologized to Manfred Weber the next day, but Austrian MEP (and EP vice-president) Othmar Karas launched a signature drive and initiative to exclude Deutsch from the EPP’s faction.
Weber also seemed to stay hard on this one and he reportedly said at a faction meeting last week that he had always been trying to be a bridge-builder, but “enough is enough” and described Deutsch’s words as unacceptable, according to participants.
Anyhow, the EPP group’s leadership put the related debate “and possible vote” on the agenda of the Wednesday meeting, according to Politico. As of now, 40 of the faction members took a stance by his expulsion (while it would require a 2/3 majority of the ballots), including all the Polish MEPs of the Civic Platform (PO). (The Fidesz-ally ruling party PiS is another grouping). PO MEP Andrzej Halicki, for example, told Politico that Fidesz is “against a common Europe, against the rule of law… They are attacking our leaders, from Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, to Manfred Weber, with unacceptable comparisons” and said they wanted the vote to be held.
The Fidesz founder’s expulsion could, however, easily trigger an avalanche within the largest party family. According to left-leaning ATV, that referred to an “influential” Fidesz politician, if Deutsch is voted out, all the Fidesz-KDNP members (13 in total) will follow suit and leave the faction.
Last week, the Prime Minister initiated
the loosening of relations between Fidesz and the EPP. According to Viktor Orbán’s letter addressed to Manfred Weber, Fidesz MEPs would remain in the EPP faction, but in a looser form of cooperation.
In perhaps a more expressive move, last week the Foreign Minister visited three EU-sceptic and right-wing, or even far-right parties in Europe. In only one day, Péter Szijjártó met with Dutch Party for Freedom, the Danish People’s Party, and Finnish Finns Party representatives. Later, he also held talks negotiated with Austrian FPÖ’s leader. Officially, all four meetings were organized to discuss migration and immigration issues.
Szijjártó’s journey generated debate, since the Minister apparently made the trips as a government politician, using state infrastructure, but without meeting any government or diplomatic representatives and his negotiations also visibly affected party matters. More importantly, however, it also raised questions about the true intentions of his visits, following the turbulence. Former MEP Benedek Jávor (of leftist green Párbeszéd), suggested that in one way or another, Szijjártó might have prepared Fidesz’s departure and post-EPP life.
Szijjártó with Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders. Image by Facebook
Worthy of noting, all the aforementioned three parties are in EP’s Identity and Democracy Group (ID), considered even more radical in euro-criticism than Fidesz’s Polish ally’s European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). While Fidesz’ joining ECR was previously suggested as a possible outcome, AfD’s presence in ID is considered a “red line” by Fidesz politicians.
featured image via MTI/European Parliament/Jan Van de Vel