The EPP is about to change its rules of procedure allowing the party family to penalize an entire member party, rather than just a single MEP. The new rules would enable the party family to exclude the whole Fidesz faction by a simple majority. In reaction, Fidesz MEP László Trócsányi has already threatened to turn to EU’s Court of Justice. Also, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán issued an ultimatum to pull his party from the EPP should the new rules be put to vote.
Last Friday, EPP group leaders agreed to new suspension rules allowing the group to exclude or suspend an entire member party rather than just a single MEP, leftist daily Népszava reported.
Although the final draft is still a work in progress, the rules are expected to be approved by the required two-thirds majority at a group meeting on Wednesday.
If approved, the exclusion will no longer require a simple but a two-thirds majority instead, except if it is about a member of a party that has already been expelled or suspended.
This also means a simple majority in the EPP would be enough to expel Fidesz MEPs.
Several officials and MEPs already said they are confident that the group will vote to suspend the 11-strong Fidesz faction, Politico reports.
The move to change the suspension rules comes after the EPP sanctioned then Fidesz EP group leader Tamás Deutsch for his harsh critical statement in which he compared comments made on the rule of law criteria by Parliament group leader Manfred Weber to the slogans of the Gestapo and Hungary’s communist-era political police.
As a quick response, Fidesz MEP László Trócsányi threatened to take the EPP group to the Court of Justice of the EU should the planned changes to the rules of procedures be accepted.
Trócsányi said the group would be disrespecting the rule of law if it introduced what he called mechanisms to “punish Fidesz” for its past actions.
PM Orbán threatening to leave the European People’s Party
On Sunday, in reaction to the suspension rule changes, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sent a letter to Manfred Weber, the head of the EPP, slamming the European People’s Party for “seeing the review of internal regulations as their most pressing task during a pandemic.”
Fidesz will leave the EPP if the party group votes in favor of the changes accepted by the leadership on Friday, Orbán wrote in the letter.
According to Orbán, the accepted proposal would “facilitate excluding our MEPs from the party family.”
In the letter, Orbán said the EPP had been suffering from a “leadership and political crisis for a long time.” Fidesz proposed “a return to the heritage of [EPP founder and former head] Wilfried Martens,” who Orbán said, successfully united right and center-right parties of various ideological and geographical backgrounds, and brought Christian right-wing parties of post-communist states into the party family.
Since 2019, the party kept promising “deep internal discussions” about the party’s future, Orbán said.
He noted his December 6th letter to Weber where he proposed a new, looser type of cooperation, but “The promises have not been kept, and my letter has not been answered.”
Instead, the EPP tabled a motion to rewrite internal regulations “with record speed and a view of easing the exclusion of our MEPs, or if this proposal didn’t get the necessary majority, they would cobble together a legally questionable way to exclude our elected representatives from the party family,” Orbán said.
“The message is clear and easy to comprehend. If Fidesz is not welcome, we do not insist on remaining members of the party group.”
Orbán noted that the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Europeans and the third wave was hitting the bloc, “taking a terrible toll in human lives and causing unprecedented economic damage.” Such times call for cooperation, joint action, tolerance, and patience, he said, adding that “It is hard to understand and accept” that Weber and the EPP group find the review of long-standing regulations their most pressing task.
Additionally, retroactively changing regulations or imposing sanctions is, “in our interpretation,” contrary to the rule of law, Orbán said. He said the recent amendments were “tailor-made to punish Fidesz.” “Since you could not collect enough votes to punish us, now you are trying to change the rules and expand them to an ongoing procedure,” he said.
As Fidesz’s leader, Orbán said he had the duty to ensure full representation of their voters. Therefore, he said he could not accept the curbing of MEP’s rights necessary to fulfill their duties, as such a step would be “profoundly anti-democratic.”
Fidesz MEPs have been elected by over 1.8 million Hungarians or 52 percent of the votes, Orbán reminded Weber. They are the strongest delegation in the EPP in that regard. “Sidelining our MEPs would be equivalent to ignoring nearly two million Hungarian voters and would further weaken our political family,” the president of Fidesz said.
Should the EPP vote in favor of the regulations accepted by the leadership and the heads of national delegations on Friday, Fidesz will leave the EPP, Orbán said.
Fidesz’s membership has been suspended in the EPP since 2019 following a joint proposal from the European People’s Party Presidency and Fidesz. Since then there have been ongoing debates about the situation of Fidesz in the party family.
Featured photo by Zoltán Fischer/PM’s Press Office/MTI