Orban apologises to EPP members

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has written to members of the European People’s Party that initiated the expulsion of his ruling Fidesz from the centre-right bloc, apologising for “offensive language”, but maintaining his political positions.

Leading Fidesz politicians have said in recent days that the party would make no compromises on fundamental political issues in its dispute with the EPP. In his latest interview with Hungarian public radio, Orban said no compromise was possible when it came to migration and protecting Christian culture, “but we can talk about everything else”.

According to a copy of the prime minister’s letter obtained by Reuters, Orban asked the leader of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Wouter Beke, to reconsider his proposal to expel Fidesz.

Responding to a query by MTI, Bertalan Havasi, the PM’s press chief, confirmed the letter’s authenticity along with Reuters’ report that similar letters have been sent to all the EPP members that joined the proposal to expel Fidesz from the grouping.

In a statement, Zoltan Kovacs, the state secretary for international communications and relations, said in connection with the letter that as long as there is a chance “to change the pro-migration tendency” in the EPP, “we will do everything we can”. They are open to “reasonable compromise” on every issue except for stopping migration and protecting Europe’s borders and its Christian culture, Kovacs said.

The leftist opposition Democratic Coalition reacted by calling on Orban to publish his letter. Zsolt Greczy, DK’s parliamentary group spokesman, told a press conference that Orban “had good reason to write the letter”, noting that the EPP is set to vote on Fidesz’s future in the grouping on March 20. “The prime minister has fallen to his knee and is now begging the EPP members he had called useful idiots to withdraw their initiative,” Greczy said.

According to reactions of EPP politicians, Orban failed to convince at least some of his critics. Petteri Orpo of the Finnish National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) tweeted that his party won’t withdraw its proposition.

In a Facebook post, Frank Engel, the head of Luxembourg’s Christian Socialist Democratic party wrote that Orban’s apology was “meaningless”.

Janez Jansa, Slovenia’s former premier and head of the Slovene Democratic Party, announced that if Fidesz were expelled, he would also leave the EPP and form an alliance with Orban.

Meanwhile, the Central European University (CEU) has welcomed efforts by Manfred Weber to help the university, but wants legal assurances from the prime minister so that it can continue operating in Budapest. CEU said in a statement on Thursday that it thanked the Bavarian government for financial and technical support offered to facilitate long-term cooperation between the university and the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Michael Ignatieff, President and Rector of CEU, discussed cooperation opportunities with Wolfgang A. Herrmann, the president of TUM.

“While CEU welcomes these developments, and the possibility it opens of reversing CEU’s ouster from Budapest, we must be absolutely clear that the parties to a possible collaboration can only proceed if the Hungarian Prime Minister provides an authoritative political commitment to his European partners that CEU will be allowed to remain in Budapest, as a free institution, offering American and European accredited degrees and that this political commitment is backed up by legislation that provides legally binding authorization for all of CEU’s operations in Budapest,” the university said in a statement.

Source: MTI, Hungary Journal
Photo: MTI

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