Why is Hungary not leaving the EU?
Manfred Weber doesn't talk about it for long. "We have a hot potato on the agenda," said the head of the Christian Democratic European People's Party (EPP) at the beginning of the group meeting. The CSU politician means point 3, the explosiveness of which is in inverse proportion to the cumbersome formulation: "Debate and vote on changes to the rules of procedure of the EPP Group". The modalities had been struggled for weeks in order to be able to suspend entire groups from the parliamentary group in the future. The membership of the Hungarian Fidesz in the EPP party family has been frozen since 2019, the faction wanted to "reflect" this with the new suspension.
The vote was turned into a “hot potato” by the man who has been driving Europe's Christian Democrats for years: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who founded the “Association of Young Democrats” in 1988 and continues to be Fidesz boss. He had threatened by letter on Sunday that his twelve MEPs would leave the parliamentary group if the new rules were adopted. The result: the two-thirds majority was easily achieved with 84 percent. There were 148 votes in favor, 28 against and four abstentions. Many people are likely to have thought as the CSU MP Monika Hohlmeier put it in the ARD: "I found it extraordinarily inappropriate and downright presumptuous that Orbán tried to put us under pressure as independent MPs."
He implemented his announcement half an hour after the result was announced and informed Weber by letter that the Fidesz MPs would resign. Although the EPP Group now only has 175 members, it remains the largest in the EU Parliament; With 29 MPs from the CDU and CSU, the German influence is growing.
Weber later spoke to journalists of a "sad day"; he had always tried to build bridges both as the EPP top candidate for the 2019 European elections and later. "It is Fidesz that has turned away," said the CSU vice-president, pointing out that the Hungarian party no longer stands on the same basis as the Christian Democratic founding fathers, including Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.
Is there still a base? In any case, "nothing gets better if you stop talking"
Daniel Caspary, head of the German delegation, made a similar statement. "We have set a sign that we will no longer accept what's going on," said the CDU politician to the Reuters news agency. Rule of law proceedings have been running against Hungary since 2018 for violating EU values. Even if no one from Germany, France and Italy spoke up at the meeting, it is clear that all the major states voted for the new rules. Among the 28 opponents, after Fidesz, the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) is the largest bloc with six "no" votes; only Othmar Karas did not follow the line of Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
CDU man Caspary emphasized that the changes to the rules of procedure were not aimed at excluding Fidesz, but rather to suspend it. Now it is up to EPP boss Donald Tusk to sound out whether there is a basis for cooperation with Orbán. "Nothing gets better when you stop talking," said Caspary.
The former EU Council President Tusk, however, is considered a sharp critic of Orbán and reminded him at the CDU party congress in January that tough decisions would have to be made "in the defense of our common values". He had unmistakably recalled that without the Germans, little would happen in the EPP: "A clear standpoint on your part will make the difference and therefore be worth gold." It is certain that the new CDU boss Armin Laschet and CSU boss Markus Söder have nodded off the course. In Brussels it is assumed that the Germans have realized that without a tougher position vis-à-vis Fidesz, other EPP parties, for example from Scandinavia or the Benelux countries, would have looked for a new home. The Civic Platform, Tusk's party, was also repeatedly associated with the Renew Liberals.
It is considered possible that the Fidesz MPs will switch to the right-wing national FCR, which is dominated by Poland's ruling party PiS, or to the ID group that is even further to the right, to which the AfD belongs. Both are already vying for Orbán.
Orbán's letter from Wednesday is quoted in detail on the website of the Hungarian government, in which he accuses the EPP of having for years promised Fidesz an "in-depth debate on the visions of the future of the party family". Weber and the EPP Group had violated the rule of law in Parliament by changing the rules of procedure retrospectively: "You have not had enough votes to punish us, so you are now changing the rules and applying them to an ongoing procedure . "
This argument is also adopted by the already suspended MP Tamas Deutsch, who commented on Facebook that it was "enough" and "That's it." The EPP is keeping itself, so German loudly Magyar Nemzet, not to the rule of law, which they constantly admonish. "We will find the place where we can represent Hungary's national interests most effectively and efficiently," said Deutsch on the question of which parliamentary group Fidesz now wants to join.
"The EPP did the bare minimum - but a decade too late," said a liberal from Hungary
Numerous Hungarian radio and television stations as well as the Internet media reported almost verbatim about the reaction of their government. In addition to party leader Orbán, who wrote his letter to Weber as usual on the prime minister's stationery, deputy party leader Katalin Novák was also quoted. The family minister complained that thousands of people were killed every day in the EU because of the corona pandemic. However, the EPP Group is busy "restricting the Fidesz MEPs' room for maneuver". But you will not allow yourself to be silenced. The anti-government website 444.hu, on the other hand, commented that the EPP had "got rid of" Fidesz because it had become too radical.
The opposition, which formed an alliance for the 2022 elections, reacted sharply. The right-wing Jobbik party interprets Orbán's decision as "another step on the way out of the EU". The socialist MSZP commented that Hungary was losing a lot of influence. MEP Katalin Cseh of the liberal Momentum party tweeted: "The EPP has done the bare minimum - but a decade too late."
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