Budapest / Brussels (dpa) – After years of disagreement, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban breaks with the European People’s Party in the European Parliament.
On Wednesday, Orban withdrew the twelve MPs from his ruling party, Fidesz, from the Christian Democratic faction in parliament. A large majority of the group had previously voted in favor of an amendment to the Rules of Procedure that could suspend Fidesz. Orban saw this as an insult.
The background to this is the dispute over the fundamental values of the EU and the rule of law. The right-wing national Orban is being criticized for its plan for an ‘illiberal’ democracy. In concrete terms, this concerns, among other things, refugee, media, university and judicial policy. Among other things, legal proceedings are under way against Hungary on the basis of Article 7 of the EU Treaties.
After the vote on the Rules of Procedure, Orban wrote to EPP Group Leader Manfred Weber (CSU): “I hereby inform you that the Fidesz members are ending their membership of the EPP Group.” The EPP’s rule changes are clearly directed against Fidesz and his constituents. Preventing elected MPs from carrying out their duties is anti-democratic, unjust and unacceptable. Fidesz’s deputy head, Katalin Novak, published the letter on Twitter.
The termination of Fidesz’s membership in the EPP faction follows years of struggle with the party family, which also includes the CDU and CSU. At the party level, Fidesz’s membership in the EPP has been suspended since 2019, even then due to alleged violations of EU fundamental values and verbal attacks on then-head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Whether Orban will lead Fidesz out of the party is open.
The split that has now taken place also marks a turning point for EPP Group Chairman Weber, who for a long time tried to mediate but ended up in a sharp conflict with Orban. Just before the group decided on the rules of procedure, Weber had written to Orban again and suggested calling. In the letter, Weber recalled that the change to the Rules of Procedure would not directly affect any member of the EPP Group or limit the fundamental rights of MEPs.
A change of the Fidesz MPs to the right-wing national EKR or to the even further right-wing party ID in parliament would be conceivable. AfD boss Jörg Meuthen wrote in a press release for the ID group on Wednesday: “Orban is welcome with us!” Both would strengthen rights in the European Parliament. The EPP would remain the strongest group.
Orban had already threatened in a letter to Weber on Sunday that the Fidesz MPs would be withdrawn from the group if the group approved the change to its rules of procedure. In the debate, however, his critics in the EPP Group stressed that one should not be intimidated by this threat. Ultimately, more than 84 percent of the participants voted in favor of the new rules of procedure.