Following years of conflict, originating from debates on the European values as well as personal conflicts, Hungary’s governing party has decided to leave the European People’s Party’s (EPP) EP group. Overall, the domestic opposition’s reactions predict Fidesz will drift further away from Europe, while apparently many even within the EPP are happy about Fidesz’s departure.
Democratic Coalition (DK) leader Ferenc Gyurcsány labels the development as a clear fiasco for Orbán, no matter how he is trying to sell it. “There isn’t any strong man of Europe. Here we see a real loser. They deserve what is happening to them now (…) They will lose at home in a year’s time too.”
The Socialist (MSZP) MEP agrees with the former PM on the exit being a “huge strategic blow” for Orbán. It is also “a reassurance for the supporters of a secure and united European Union,” István Ujhelyi argues, predicting the Hungarian ruling parties will find themselves in an even more difficult position from now on.
According to Momentum, after years of paralysis, today the EPP eventually “throws the rotten orange out. (…) In the centrist-liberal party’s view, with this move, Orbán drifts further away from Europe and closer to his true ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We don’t care if they go to Moscow, just don’t take the country with them.”
According to Jobbik, Fidesz would soon want to exit the EU too. The right-wing opposition party claims the process started much earlier and “the blackmailing pocket-sized Putin hasn’t been taken seriously for years now- they just did not want to take on the open conflict against him. Until now.”
Meanwhile, green-centrist LMP, in an ironic post, likened the Fidesz-EPP relation’s new chapter to a never-ending Latin American soap opera: “Whether Fidesz will remain in the party family, it will be revealed in the next twisted season: the stormy relationship of Weber and Orbán will entertain those who are receptive to it for years to come.”
The Liberals hail the EPP, whom they say amid growing right-wing populism, remained “committed to integration, the rule of law, and fundamental human rights.” (…) “What is left of Fidesz is just an extreme populist, exclusionary, authoritarian formation which makes the everyday life of Hungarian society bitter, and in Europe it draws attention only with its corruption issues and exclusionary approach.”
Minister without portfolio for Family Affairs Katalin Novák shared Orbán’s letter to Manfred Weber on her Facebook page.
She said that “while thousands of people are dying every day, the parliamentary faction of the European People’s Party is too preoccupied with restricting the liberty of Fidesz representatives in the European Parliament.
Justice Minister Judit Varga blamed EPP group leader Manfred Weber, who in her view, doesn’t want to lead the EPP group along with Christian-Conservative values. “While Europe faces one of the greatest challenges in its history and people are working hard to fight the epidemic (…) Weber is preoccupied with exclusion and political discrimination.” “We believe that it is also possible to be European by preserving our thousand-year-old culture, our national identity, while we are also cooperating with other European countries,” Judit Varga insisted.
Fidesz MEP Balázs Hidvéghi said the EPP was shifting to the left and “losing its character”. The EPP should return to the concept of “Europe of Nations” and accept Christian Democratic values as a part of European politics, he said. Fidesz thinks it is “unacceptable” that the EPP had changed its regulations so that it could “silence” a group of MEPs, he told Hungarian journalists in Brussels.
Meanwhile, as to what can be read in the news at this point, the Christian Democrats (KDNP) and their only one MEP, György Hölvényi, would remain in the EPP group. Although earlier, the KDNP politician said he would follow Fidesz MEPs; before the vote, he said he would continue to work for Christian values. “This shouldn’t have happened,” he also commented on the developments.
Polish EPP member Rosa Thun simply commented: “Adieu #FIDESZ from @EPPGroup! I will not cry.”
Austrian MEP Othmar Karas (one of Fidesz’s biggest critics within the EPP), argued that “Fidesz’s withdrawal from the EPP is the result of Orbán’s failed blackmail attempt. This is how he prevented the Fidesz delegation from being excluded. Exclusion from the party family is just a formality now.”
The youth organization of Finnish Kookomus party was also glad apparently:
..🎉 FIDESZ QUITS EPP GROUP 🎉 –
the long work of the National Coalition Party and its Youth League KNL to get Fidesz out of the EPP is paying off! (1/3) pic.twitter.com/3jqz38FlGD
— Kokoomusnuoret (@Kokoomusnuoret) March 3, 2021
“Finally, the People’s Party had the courage to do what it should have done years ago,” the Hungarian government’s usual adversary, Green Party member Judith Sargentini wrote.
Dutch MEP, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe’s (ALDE) member Sophie in’t Veld was on the same page with Sargentini.
Good that Fidesz is no longer in @eppgroup, but it took too long. Still several of Orbán’s allies remain. EPP has to start reflecting: do they want to go down the same path as the US Republicans, or will they clean up their house and remain a responsible centrist party?
— Sophie in ‘t Veld (@SophieintVeld) March 3, 2021
Meanwhile, just as Karas suggested, speculation has already begun whether Fidesz and the EPP party family will break off soon.
featured image: Weber and Orbán in 2018; via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI