Goodbye EPP! Hello ECR?

Alvaro Peñas 

Last Monday I was on the TV program “The Immense Minority” (https://eltorotv.com/programas/la-inmensa-minoria/la-inmensa-minoria-01-03-21-programa-completo-20210301) in a chapter dedicated entirely to the figure of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor  Orbán. I and the presenter, Fernando Paz, agreed that Fidesz’s departure from the European People’s Party was secure after Orbán’s letter to Manfred Weber, president of the EPP, last Sunday and the coverage of the Hungarian media on Monday. Orbán announced that Fidesz would not remain within the EPP group if the new amendment to the statutes announced at the end of February was adopted. “If Fidesz is not welcome, we will not insist on remaining members of that group”. With this amendment in force, the EPP could suspend an entire party and not, as before, individual Members, and do so by a simple majority, without requiring a two-thirds vote of the group. In addition, under this new regulation, the 12 Fidesz MEPs would lose the right to vote, the use of the word during EPP meetings and even their attendance at the group’s congresses.

According to some media, in anticipation of the adoption of the amendment, the “popular” parties of the Nordic and Baltic countries sent a letter to Weber on Tuesday calling for the Hungarians to be expelled. In a regular move within the political hypocrisy so to the taste of the Brussels elite, Othmar Karas, leader of the Austrian faction of the EPP, noted that the new statute was not against Fidesz, to say below: “First we have to accept the new rules, then we will see what Viktor Orbán does. If that happens, I think the faction will be in favor of suspending Fidesz”. Finally, the new amendment was adopted on Wednesday morning with a large majority of 148 votes in favour versus 28 against. Orbán, true to his word, sent Weber a letter announcing Fidesz’s immediate departure from the European People’s Party. Katalin Novák, Vice President of Fidesz, shared it on social media: “We will not allow our MEPs to be silenced or limited in their ability to represent our voters. It’s undemocratic, unfair and unacceptable. Therefore, Fidesz has decided to leave the EPP group immediately”.

The truth is that Fidesz’s situation in the EPP was far from comfortable. Manfred Weber, a German politician of the CSU (Christian Social Union) of Bavaria, was for a long time an ally of the Hungarian Prime Minister. In July 2013, the Tavares report, presented by Green MEP Rui Tavares, was discussed in the European Parliament, accusing Hungary of moving towards authoritarianism. The report was approved by the majority of the house, but the EPP voted against it. Back then, Orbán compared EU policy to the Soviet Union. But the good relationship with Weber ended in the face of Hungarian refusal to accept the mass influx of migrants and the quotas requested by Brussels during the 2015 “refugee crisis”. Immigration policy made Orbán the enemy to beat in the eyes of the establishment.

In September 2018, the European Parliament adopted a new report against Hungary, the Sargentini report, presented by Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini, in which the country was denounced for the situation of the rule of law. This time, the EPP voted in favour of the report, including Manfred Weber. However, Orbán offered his support to Weber for his candidacy within the EPP group to aspire to the presidency of the European Commission. Weber’s response to Orbán’s tended hand was that he did not want to be chosen with the support of the “Hungarian populists”. In March 2019, the EPP tested Fidesz’s suspension within the group, and even last year more than a dozen parties called for its expulsion. So, what has happened is far from a surprise.

Orbán’s breakup with the EPP had to come. Fidesz has been moving towards what Orbán defines as “illiberalism”, towards a Christian right that puts conservative values and national sovereignty first, and which defends family and birth policies. On the contrary, the EPP is increasingly moving towards progressive values, gender ideology, the mass influx of immigrants and the sale of sovereignty to European institutions, that is, to the open society that promotes Soros and all the palm trees of globalism.

The big question now is, which group will Fidesz join? Orbán has good relations with Identity and Democracy, the group of Marine Le Pen and Mateo Salvini. He also maintains a close personal relationship with Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, who often visits Hungary because his wife is Hungarian. However, the group with which he has the best relationship is ECR, the group of Conservatives and Reformists. Within this group, there is the Polish PiS (Law and Justice), his strongest ally within the Visegrad group. There is also VOX (in fact, Orbán has met Santiago Abascal, leader of VOX), IMRO of Bulgaria, Latvian National Alliance, and the party of Giorgia Meloni, Brothers of Italy. Giorgia Meloni is the president of ECR party and an increasingly internationally relevant figure with whom Viktor Orban also maintains a very good relationship. Last week, Orbán sent a letter of support to Meloni, who has been left alone in opposition to Mario Draghi’s new grand coalition (from Article One leftists to Lega nationalists), pointing out the shared virtues: common sense and Christian and conservative values. Many understood this letter as a statement of intent on the course Orbán would take if his departure from the EPP occurred. If Fidesz joins ECR, this group will have 75 MEPs, the same as Identity and Democracy and two more than the Greens. The addition of Orbán and Fidesz to ECR would be excellent news for all European patriots.

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