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Weber: Merkel and I Determine the Political Direction of the EPP, Not Orbán

Fanni Kaszás 2019.04.05.

Following his campaign’s opening, European People’s Party (EPP) Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber told Népszava that Fidesz’s exclusion from the party family is not entirely out of the question.  However, he is unsure how the relationship between Fidesz and the EPP will develop over the coming weeks. Weber made it clear, however, that if the Prime Minister “starts provoking again,” the committee of ‘three wise men’ will act accordingly.

Weber reiterated that the EPP made a clear and determined decision when it suspended Fidesz’s membership. At the same time, Fidesz claimed to have initiated its own suspension. For Weber, the decision’s message is clear, regardless: Viktor Orbán will not determine the political direction and future of the party family. That is a job for the opinion leaders of the EPP, including Angela Merkel and himself.

Weber Increases Pressure on Fidesz

Though he has admitted to being unaware of how the party and party family’s relationship will proceed, he made it clear that he will not tolerate additional provocation from Orbán. If the PM organizes another “anti-EU, anti-Juncker or anti-Timmermans campaign,” Herman van Rompuy, the leader of the EPP’s ‘group of wisemen’, will act accordingly. Weber also strongly believes it is crucial how the main parties in the EPP choose to respond to populist forces in the future.

Will Stanford University help “save” CEU’s operation in Budapest?

The group leader also spoke of a plan to “save” CEU’s operation in Budapest via a high-quality cooperation between the university, the Technical University of Munich and Stanford University in the United States. On April 11, the Rector of CEU Michael Ignatieff will discuss establishing partnerships in Munich. Weber said, “I do not want to deepen the rifts; I only strive to find solutions. This is my policy.” He added that, although “the EPP has suspended” Fidesz’s membership, Viktor Orbán is still the Prime Minister and it is in everyone’s best interest to come to a compromise.

CEU in Budapest: Govt Supports Weber’s Proposal

According to Népszava, Vice-rector of CEU Zsolt Enyedi confirmed that Stanford University is the “top-class” American university they plan to work with. They have just begun outlining the details of the partnership and have yet to reach the point they have with the Technical University of Munich.

Fidesz: the EPP needs Fidesz, not the other way around

In regards to Fidesz’s tentative EPP membership, the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás declared the EPP needs Fidesz far more than Fidesz needs it. He added that Fidesz wants to stay in the party family but would choose not to cooperate with the EPP if it were to make concessions to pro-migration forces. At the same time, he insisted Fidesz has made strides towards normalizing its relations with the EPP.

The Great Debate: Did the EPP Suspend Fidesz or Did Fidesz Suspend Itself?

The meeting in March in which the EPP decided to suspend Fidesz’s membership was a “gathering which belongs to the entertainment industry,” Gulyás said. The minister described the debate as “damaging” to the EPP and a “tragi-comic.” He suggested the party family was “trying to shoot itself in the foot” during the EP campaign by debating whether “its strongest member” should be sanctioned. However, Gulyás said EPP leader Manfred Weber appeared to be the best candidate, even if his position wavered on certain issues.

Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér invited Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini to visit Hungary, Gulyás confirmed, and added that Hungary applauds Salvini’s policies because he has shown that maritime migration “can be stopped.” Gulyás said the Hungarian government “fully agrees” with Salvini in that the protection of external borders “is essential to stopping migration.”

Fidesz to Opt out of Salvini’s New Party Cooperation

Gulyás also mentioned that if voters support the Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance’s anti-migration, anti-united-states-of-Europe policies in the upcoming EP election, it will be taken as instruction in terms of the coalitions the party enters into in the future. Hinting, perhaps, at the possibility of Fidesz searching for other, potential allies in Europe.