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Weber’s Budapest Visit: A Make or Break Moment for Fidesz and EPP?

Fanni Kaszás 2019.03.11.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet EPP group leader Manfred Weber in Budapest on Tuesday to discuss Fidesz’s EPP membership, the prime minister’s press chief confirmed on Monday. The Weber-Orbán talk could be crucial in preserving Fidesz’s membership.

Prior to his Tuesday visit, Weber claimed he is merely coming to Hungary because Fidesz is clearly on its way out of the EPP. According to welt.de, Weber said he intends “to make it clear (to Orbán) that he is currently on a path out of the EPP.” Weber added that the dispute is not about “a conflict between East and West or migration policy,” but about the fundamental values of the EPP and the European Union. The politician insisted that the EPP will not “force Fidesz to stay” if it does not wish to.

Weber also said on Friday in Warsaw that “Viktor Orbán decides which party family Fidesz wants to be a member of”:

No one is forced to stay. Fidesz can stay, but the EPP is based on common principles and values.

More than a dozen EPP member parties officially initiated Fidesz’s exclusion. The European People’s Party is scheduled to discuss the matter next week on 20 March.

Concerning the information campaign accusing Brussels of supporting illegal migration, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday that he did not expect the Juncker-Soros posters to become a “casus belli” in the eyes of the EPP:

I expected that not everyone would be happy about it, but I think it is an exaggeration to make it a casus belli.

According to the Prime Minister, George Soros and Jean-Claude Juncker were depicted in a “Muppet show” style and the information campaign was more than necessary. Orbán also told reporters that Fidesz is “considering” the ramifications of being excluded from the EPP, but that it is far more concerned with its place than the proposal.

Orbán: ‘EPP Dispute might Reveal that Our Place is not within the EPP but Outside’

He emphasized that the party has a myriad of options from which to choose and referred specifically to a potential new formation prior to the EP election.

Orbán stressed that he prefers to “repair what is not working, but there comes a point when it does not make sense to stay”:

There is a completely new situation to which answers have to be given. I am looking for answers in the EPP, but if we cannot get on the same page, it is not worth looking for answers together.

Orbán said Fidesz was seeking to change the EPP by encouraging it to “embrace anti-migration forces.” He hinted that the dispute may have revealed that the party’s true place could be elsewhere.

Within the EPP or Outside, Fidesz’s Prospects in the European Parliament

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared that Fidesz would not apologize to EPP party members, directly defying one of the conditions set by Weber. Szijjártó said that whenever the EC claims it is not for immigration, no one knows whether it is “only joking or really believes what it says.” In regards to the conditions set by Weber concerning Fidesz’s EPP membership, the Foreign Minister said:

A party should only apologize if it has made false statements about another party and we have not done that. Our goal is to have an anti-migration majority within the European Parliament.