After the European People’s Party passed its vote allowing for the suspension of its member parties, Viktor Orbán sent a letter to EPP Group President Manfred Weber declaring the immediate resignation of all Fidesz representatives from the party’s faction in the European Parliament.
The new ruling, passed 148 to 28, allows for the removal of EPP member groups’ privileges. Only 15 percent of the faction is required to call for a vote on the suspension or restriction of a member or a group of members, which can be passed through a 2/3 majority vote in the party.
The consequences of a suspension result in the removal of voting rights, the ability to speak up in EPP meetings, and access to seats in the EPP parliament.
The decision of Fidesz to leave the group not only impacts its own influence in Europe, but also the influence and stability of the EPP Group.
With 12 MEPs, Fidesz was one of the largest parties representing the EPP in the European Parliament. Thus, both sides have been negatively impacted by the event.
EPP Members Want Fidesz Out of Operation
Othmar Karas, leader of the Austrian People’s Party delegation for the European Parliament, was one of the first people who called for the ruling and helped establish it.
Karas, who is also responsible for Tamás Deutsch’s suspension last year, said that while the EPP invests a lot of time into Fidesz, Fidesz is still not cooperative. “I reject any further attempts by Orbán to blackmail us and continue his accusatory statements toward us,” he said.
The new ruling on suspensions originates
from EPP sanctions on Fidesz EP group leader Tamás Deutsch, after he compared the rule of law criteria by Manfred Weber to the slogans of the Gestapo and the secret police of Hungary’s communist regime.
According to leftist daily Népszava, leaders from the Christian-democratic parties of six Northern and Baltic countries called on Manfred Weber on Tuesday to suspend the memberships of Fidesz’s European Parliament representatives.
In response to the sanctions, Fidesz MEP László Trócsányi threatened to take the EPP Group to the European Court of Justice if the rulings are accepted, and Viktor Orbán told Manfred Weber that Fidesz will leave the EPP if the party group votes in favor of the ruling.
A Loss of European Influence
The People’s Party is the largest faction in the European Parliament, and its members, who have access to strong positions in European international institutions, can effectively influence decision making.
Fidesz’s likely reasoning behind their resignation was presumably to leave before they were voted out.
It is important to note that this is not the total removal of Fidesz from the European People’s Party, since they have so far only removed their officials representing the EPP in the European Parliament.
Head of Press & Communications for the EPP Group Pedro Lopez has said that the suspension of an EPP member does not impact that member’s rights in the European Parliament.
The event does, however, mean that tensions between Fidesz and the EPP have reached the point where it will likely be removed, or will remove itself, from the party family.
Not Much of a Future Left for Fidesz in the EPP
Donald Tusk, president of the European People’s Party, alongside the multiple Fidesz-critical party leaders in the EPP, could potentially decide that a group who voluntary leaves the EPP faction in the European Parliament has no place in the broader EPP party family.
It is likely that the Hungarian government also has little interest in remaining in the party family if they have already revoked their valuable seats in the European Parliament.
In fact, based off its most recent statement, this is the exact situation which Fidesz is in. The EPP stated on Wednesday that it welcomes the new ruling adopted in the party, and that Fidesz faces exclusion.
In response to Orbán’s announcement that Fidesz members will be leaving the EPP Group, the EPP stated that Fidesz “is now facing an exclusion procedure from the party, under Article 3 of the EPP Statutes. This must be decided by the EPP Political Assembly.”
Fact KDNP Remain EPP Group Loyalists
According to ATV, members of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), Fidesz’s coalition partner, said that even if Fidesz leaves the EPP Group, they will remain. Zsolt Semjén, president of the party, said that the only reason for their continued presence is the fact that they were personally invited by former Hungarian Prime Minister József Antall and Germany’s former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. According to left-leaning ATV, Semjén said that “KDNP has been in the EPP longer than the EPP itself.” Adding that “I will remain, and since the party’s stance has not changed, György Hölvényi will also remain in both the People’s Party and the party faction. The same source says that they were allegedly requested by the higher ups at the Vatican to remain, even if their coalition partner leaves.
Featured photo illustration by Balázs Szecsődi/MTI/Prime Minister’s Press Office