Tensions have been mounting between the EPP and Fidesz for years. Therefore, when at the beginning of 2019 it appeared that the party’s expulsion could simply be a matter of time, it wasn’t exactly a shock. Orbán’s speech on March 15th, the Hungarian national holiday, however, pointed in another direction: it seems that the Prime Minister now wishes to remain in the EPP. His speech was marked by a decidedly milder tone; there was no mention of either George Soros or the European Commission.
It is uncertain whether Fidesz will remain in the EPP given that a number of conservative politicians from the Benelux and Scandinavian states still call for the party’s expulsion due to what they call a ’populist turn.’ Whether Orbán’s new moderate stance will persuade them otherwise remains inconclusive. Many speculate that the decisive move will likely come from the German Christian Democrats.
The Hungarian Prime Minister might believe that Fidesz has a better chance of furthering Hungary’s interests if it remains in the biggest European political group. Whereas Fidesz insists on a return to the original, right-wing ideas of the EPP, the leftist wing of the conservative group is moving ever closer to the new European liberal political force, of which Emmanuel Macron is the poster boy. Even though migration and the decline of (some parts of) the lower middle-class has given rise to discontent in certain social strata in Western Europe, in cultural and lifestyle issues there is a broad, constant march towards the political left (with the process being accelerated within the Millennial generation). Issues such as the rising acceptance of gay marriage and adoption, a celebratory or at least passive attitude towards transgender ideology and the downplaying of the Islamisation of Europe illustrate this leftward trend.
Real answers will only come after the European Parliamentary elections. While it is possible that expulsion or suspension will not occur in March, a complete break could still be in the cards after the elections. Thus far, Orbán has manoeuvred quite successfully, as demonstrated by his ability to represent his values from within the EPP (conservative, right-wing, European values). However, as moderate European conservatives are constantly moving to the left, it is also a possibility that Orbán himself will decide to join a more radical, energetic (so to speak) political group. The next few weeks will likely provide an array of twists and turns, all of which will hopefully leave us with a better understanding of Fidesz’s fate.
on the featured photo: PM Viktor Orbán at the EPP’s Congress last November. Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI