European People’s Party Suspends Hungarian Leader Orban’s Fidesz Party Pending Inquiry
The inquiry into Fidesz’s actions has been suggested as a compromise by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s successor as leader of Germany’s CDU.
The center-right pan-European party family, the European People’s Party (EPP), has decided to suspend Fidesz, Hungary’s ruling party of controversial Prime Minister Viktor Orban, for violations of the principles of the rule of law.
EPP delegates from member parties meeting in Brussels voted on Wednesday in Brussels to suspend Orban’s Fidesz party until further notice, the President of the European People’s Party, Joseph Daul, announced.
“The suspension entails: no attendance at any party meeting; no voting rights; no right to propose candidates for posts,” Daul said in a tweet.
“We cannot compromise on democracy, rule of law, freedom of press, academic freedom or minorities rights. And anti-EU rhetoric is unacceptable. The divergences between EPP and Fidesz must cease,” Daul said in an EPP release.
Since he retook power in Hungary in 2010, Orban and his Fidesz party have cracked down on media freedom, the independence of the judiciary, and NGOs, in what have been widely criticized as authoritarian measures.
At the same time, however, Orban has been in conflict with the EU establishment over his opposition to the EU’s receiving of large numbers of migrants from the Middle East since 2015.
He has been chastised by EU officials numerous times, and in September 2018, the European Parliament took the unprecedented decision to recommend sanction procedures against Hungary under Article 7 of the EU Treaty for breaching core values of the European Union.
Ahead of the vote, Viktor Orban had preemptively slammed it as “EU blackmail” of Hungary.
Before Wednesday’s vote on Fidesz’s suspension, the lead 2019 European Parliament Elections candidate of the EPP, Manfred Weber of Germany, supported the measure pending an inquiry into the actions of Orban’s party.
According to Weber, the findings of the inquiry would have “enormous political bearing”.
Orban himself told the EPP delegates that his party could not accept that proposal. He earlier said that his party Fidesz might decide to leave the EPP on its own.
Evaluation of Orban’s party will be carried out by a committee chaired by former European Council head Herman Van Rompuy, Reuters reported citing a document it had access to.
“As a political family we must not only have principles and speak about values, but we must also lead by example,” the document said.
Fidesz’s expulsion had been backed by the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and 13 sister parties in the EPP before Wednesday’s meeting.
However, ahead of the meeting, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), who recently succeeded Angela Merkel as head of Germany’s ruling CDU party, proposed a compromise including carrying out an inquiry into Fidesz’s actions. Not unlike Orban, AKK also attended the EPP meeting in Brussels in person.
On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also from the EPP, reiterated his call for kicking Fidesz out of the right-wing party family.
“I think that Mr Orban is a long way from basic Christian Democratic values,” he told a German radio station.
According to sources close to Weber, Orban has made some steps towards keeping Fidesz in the EPP, which include apologizing to fellow EPP figures for styling them “useful idiots” backing immigration.
With the 2019 European Parliament Elections approaching, and Weber’s hopes to succeed Juncker as head of the European Commission, Fidesz’s votes in the EP might prove very valuable.
(Banner image: Video grab from European Audio-Visual Service)