Financial Times interviewed two candidates for the European Commission (EC) presidency, Frans Timmermans and Manfred Weber. The article spends a significant amount of time discussing “authoritarian leaders” and “rule of law issues.” As a result, Viktor Orbán and Hungary are often mentioned.
Weber, who is also the group leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), admitted that Fidesz’s suspension from the party family was a “face-saving” way for the party to keep its factions together. He explained that some of the EPP’s rightwing members actually “admire” Orbán for being a champion of self-proclaimed “traditional values” and for his tough approach to immigration.
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The article also mentions Weber’s recent statement in which he declared he would refuse the presidency if it takes Fidesz’s votes to acquire it. The Spitzenkandidat explained, “I am a man of Europe. I have an ambitious plan for Europe. I want to strengthen Europe — and that’s why my majority is based on those who believe in this project.”
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In another interesting section of the article, Timmermans recalls a meeting he attended with trade unionists during a recent visit to Budapest.
“They had one requirement: we shouldn’t tell anyone where the meeting is and it should be in a room without windows.” Two of the invitees failed to show up. “I was told it was because they got a telephone call from the government warning them not to see me…”
Furthermore, according to the lead candidate of the Party of European Socialists (PES), the EPP hasn’t yet broken with Orbán because it’s “just counting the votes.”
In the featured photo: Manfred Weber and Viktor Orbán. Photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Press Office