Orbán’s ruling party, Fidesz, leaves the European People’s Party (EPP). In a letter addressed to Manfred Weber, the group’s leader, he informs him that all Fidesz MEPs resign their membership of the Christian Democrat group. The letter comes as a response to today’s meeting where the EPP decided to vote in favour of changing the rules of member party exclusion.
Today’s meeting comes after nearly 40 EPP members called for a change in expulsion rules regarding member parties after requesting the exclusion of Tamás Deutsch, the head of the Hungarian ruling party in the European Parliament. In December 2020, Deutsch compared Manfred Weber’s comments to slogans of the Gestapo and Hungary’s communist-era secret police.
The Christian Democrats already decided to suspend Fidesz from the EPP in March 2019 after a group of 13 member parties, mainly from northern Europe, called for Fidesz to be suspended or expelled. The group, however, did leave room for the Hungarian party to become a full-fledged member again if it was able to meet certain requirements including the ending of an anti-Juncker campaign and the resolution of the conflict surrounding the Soros-founded Central European University in Budapest.
The EPP and Fidesz have had a difficult relationship, to say the least. Attacks by Fidesz on the EPP and its officials combined with concerns over the rule of law in Orbán’s Hungary have led to calls from both within the Christian Democrat camp and outside to officially end its partnership with the Hungarian ruling party.
Orbán himself already threatened that Fidesz would leave the group in any case if the EPP decided to vote in favour of the new rules in a letter to Manfred Weber. The Hungarian prime minister himself writes: ‘I want to inform you, Mr Chairman, that if the provisions accepted at the meeting of the Presidency and of Head of national delegations on February 26 are put to a vote and adopted, Fidesz will leave the group’. In the end, Orbán decided to pull out even before the votes were cast.
What the twelve MEPs will do now is unclear. Not being a part of a group in the European Parliament has considerable disadvantages. Orbán has been flirting with the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) for the last couple of weeks. In a letter to the president of the ECR, Giorgia Meloni, Orbán says he needs reliable battle comrades who have a common vision of the world and give similar answers to the challenges of our times.
Even now that Fidesz has decided to leave, the EPP is still the largest group in the European Parliament with 175 seats. Followed by the social democrats with 145.