Hungary’s ruling Fidesz has “unilaterally suspended exercising its rights as a member of the European People’s Party”, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at an international press conference after an EPP meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
The EPP has requested “three wise men” to prepare a report, on the basis of which “the long-term future of the EPP and that of the relationship between the EPP and Fidesz can be decided”, Orban said. “We cannot be ejected or suspended; we have won four elections by the will of Hungarian citizens,” Orban insisted. He noted that Fidesz had garnered 47, 56, and 52 percent of the votes during the past three European parliamentary elections, respectively. “A party like that will obviously not allow itself to be ejected or suspended but will stand up and leave instead,” he said.
The original proposal prepared by the Presidency for today’s meeting stated that Fidesz’s membership will be suspended [for an indefinite period of time], but after three hours of heated debate this sentence was changed to “The EPP Presidency and FIDESZ jointly agree that FIDESZ suspends its membership in the EPP until the report of the evaluation committee is ready”. (HJ)
Fidesz has decided to “suspend our rights for the period while we wait for the three wise men to complete their report, then we will have talks again with the EPP”, Orban said. The prime minister stressed that Hungary’s policies remained unchanged, saying that he had made this clear at Wednesday’s assembly. He said this applied to Hungary’s goal of a strong Europe, a strong European Union, its immigration policy and its priority to protect Europe’s Christian culture.
He said Fidesz had appointed “its own committee of three wise people” to be chaired by state secretary for family and youth affairs Katalin Novak. Judit Varga, state secretary for EU relations at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Fidesz-Christian Democrat MEP Jozsef Szajer will be the other two members, he added. Orban said the three of them will be the ones to hold talks with the EPP’s committee and draft their own report on how the EPP and Fidesz’s relationship should be shaped, whether Fidesz has a place in the EPP and if so, what kind of an EPP that should be.
“The European People’s Party made the right decision today, because it kept its unity,” Orban said. He said that the EPP had also made the right decision in the sense that the grouping would now be able to tackle the EP election campaign as a cohesive unit and because Fidesz could continue to support Manfred Weber as the EPP’s spitzenkandidat. Fidesz and the EPP, he said, had “not closed off any paths”, and would be free to decide on their relationship after the elections.
Orban called the EPP’s debate on Fidesz’s future “very interesting, exciting and instructive”. He said the EPP’s future had been “called into question” in recent weeks and Wednesday’s debate had been about the centre-right bloc’s future.
He called the EPP an “unprecedentedly brave venture”, pointing out that it was a grouping ranging from “liberal left-wing parties” to Christian conservative right-wing parties “like ourselves”. He said it was the pursuit to keep these parties together that made the “experiment” he said was the EPP special. This has worked out reasonably well in the recent period, Orban said, adding that it was this that had turned the EPP into the top political force in European politics.
The prime minister added, at the same time, that in recent weeks, thirteen parties from “the leftist-liberal branch of this colourful community” had proposed that “those who are firmly on the Christian conservative side” should be expelled from the EPP. “Those are us,” he said. Orban said certain political forces were looking to turn the EPP into an organisation “with a much narrower profile whose centre of gravity is not where it is now but much further to the left, in a liberal direction”.
Another reason why Wednesday’s debate was special, he said, was because it had happened on the eve of an election campaign. “I’ve got to say, no political opponent could have a nicer present than to have the other party start to slice itself up two months before the [EP] elections,” Orban said. He said that while the stakes of Wednesday’s debate had been the future of the EPP and its ideological character, another question had been whether the EPP would be able to restore its unity for the elections.
Orban also said he had asked the heads of the thirteen parties to withdraw their proposal on Fidesz’s expulsion because “this isn’t good in terms of the campaign, nor is it good for the EPP in the long run, but they weren’t willing to withdraw it”. If they had withdrawn the proposal, there would not have been a need for today’s debate, he argued.
“We want the EPP to remain the strongest party in European politics and to be able to mount a united campaign,” Orban said. The prime minister said Fidesz also wanted the EPP to remain a balanced political family “which is only possible if we, the party representing Christian conservative values, are also here”.
Weber: Situation in Hungary to be investigated by council of ‘wise men’
A council of “wise men” will be appointed to monitor the situation in Hungary over the coming period and it will evaluate the ruling Fidesz party’s policies, the European People’s Party’s group leader and spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber said. Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the EPP’s political assembly, Weber said the council would be headed by former European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, with former European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering and former Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel also serving on the panel.
Weber said Fidesz’s potential expulsion from the centre-right bloc was not off the table. He said it would take “a long time” to restore trust between the EPP and Fidesz. In practice, the suspension of Fidesz’s EPP membership means that its members may not attend party meetings, propose candidates or shape the EPP’s policies, he added.
Source and photo: MTI