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PM Viktor Orban, Screenshot from YouTube

Hungary’s Fidesz suspends its participation in EPP

Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced at an international press conference in Brussels on Wednesday that his ruling Fidesz party has “unilaterally suspended exercising its rights as a member of the European People’s Party”.

Published: March 22, 2019, 7:37 am

    Brussels

    At an EPP meeting, it was requested that “three wise men” 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 said. He added 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.”

    Originally, Fidesz proposed that its membership 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”.

    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 If they had withdrawn the proposal, there would not have been a need for today’s debate, he argued.

    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.

    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.

    “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 top contender. 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 group’s future.

    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”.

    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 Manfred Weber said. It will 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 explained.

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