Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for a debate within the European People’s Party on the future of the EPP in a memorandum sent to the leaders of the grouping, on Tuesday.
In the memo, shared by ruling Fidesz’s deputy leader Katalin Novák on Facebook, Orbán said members of the centre-right grouping had played an active and important role in European public discourse from the outset. He stressed the EPP’s crucial role in Europe’s formation of a political majority on important matters like the ousting of the Soviet Union from central Europe, the rejection and overthrow of communist political systems, the reunification of Europe with the countries liberated from Soviet occupation, the establishment of the Schengen system and the creation of the euro.
“The EPP was resolutely pro-democracy, anti-communist, pro-market, anti-Marxist, pro-nation, in favour of building the Union on the basis of nations, pro-subsidiarity, anti-bureaucracy, Christian-inspired, and a committed representative and devotee of the Christian family model and the matrimony of one man and one woman,” Orbán wrote. “The EPP represented these values courageously, proudly and successfully under the pressure of its opponents, fashion trends and the left-wing liberal media majority.”
But, he added, by now “everything has changed”.
“Instead of stepping up against communism and Marxism, which left behind a painful legacy in Europe, we are applauding Fidel Castro and Karl Marx.” Instead of the Christian-social Rhine model, the EPP embraces egalitarian, socialistic social theories and favours further centralisation and “reinforcing the bureaucracy in Brussels” over subsidiarity, the prime minister wrote. He lamented what he saw as the grouping’s failure to represent Christian inspirations openly and self-consciously, “if there are any left”.
Orbán said EPP, of which Fidesz is a member, saw mass migration as the solution to Europe’s demographic problems rather than promoting child birth. “We indolently tolerate the disintegration of the Schengen Area and helplessly view the failure to involve the countries of the Balkans into the integration of Europe.” The prime minister also said the EPP offered no attractive alternative to its political adversaries and even regarded their interpretations as points of reference while exposing the grouping’s internal conflicts to the general public.
He said the EPP was “sliding from the Christian right-wing towards the left”, slowly becoming indistinguishable from the liberal, green and socialist left in the eyes of voters. Whereas in 2011 the EPP had 16 heads of government in the European Union’s 27 member states and 271 MEPs, today the grouping only has 9 prime ministers and 187 MEPs with only a few of its members being able to govern without a coalition, Orbán added.
He said that in this situation, an internal debate on the mission of the grouping was inevitable, noting that such a debate had not taken place at the last congress in Zagreb. Instead of a debate, Orbán wrote, the grouping had elected a president who “brought Polish domestic conflicts and interests into the EPP”.
Orbán said his Fidesz party believes “that it is a democratic, legitimate and natural endeavour for a member party of our political family to initiate changing our policy guideline”. Democracy and political success, he added, was always the result of a lively debate.
The prime minister recommended that the party alliance should modify is strategic guideline and return to the heritage of Wilfried Martens who “successfully united centre-right and right-wing parties of various roots and geographic backgrounds.” Fidesz also recommends that the EPP support its member parties in cooperating and building coalitions not only with the left, but also with the right-wing in their countries, he wrote, adding that besides centrist forces, representatives of the Christian right-wing should also be given a seat at the table.
“Unity is the most important thing, but in our situation today, unity, a new unity, can only be achieved through honest internal debates,” he concluded.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Tuesday afternoon, Novák said the memorandum was prompted by discussions at inter-party meetings about the EPP’s future and was designed to serve “as guidance”.
“We have not devoted enough time to discussing the EPP’s future, the future of European conservatism or Christian democracy,” Novák said. “The EPP is becoming less powerful in Europe which is rather unfortunate.”
She said the conservative side in Europe needed change and Fidesz wanted to play an active role in achieving this.
“It is because it is important to give conservative answers to the challenges of our time,” Novák said.