Recently a verbal battle broke out between the head of the European Parliament’s biggest party, the European People’s Party (EPP), and one of its national members, Hungary’s Fidesz (also the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban). The EPP demanded an apology over anti-EU and anti-immigration billboards and comments promoted by Fidesz members. Politico Europe reported:
Four national parties within the European People’s Party urged the political group’s president Thursday to either expel or suspend Hungary’s Fidesz from the center-right bloc.
Three parties signed a letter to EPP President Joseph Daul asking for Fidesz’s expulsion — the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V), the Walloon Humanist Democratic Center (cdH) and Luxembourg’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV), Luxembourgish MEP Frank Engel confirmed to POLITICO.
The fourth party, Portugal’s CDS-People’s Party, said it wrote to the EPP presidency, calling for Fidesz to either be expelled or suspended.
The letters follow the Hungarian government’s decision to launch a public campaign against European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a senior member of the EPP.
“Whoever continuously goes against [the] Christian-democrat ideology and values, doesn’t have a place with us,” CD&V leader Wouter Beke tweeted when announcing the letter his party signed.
According to Portuguese newspaper Expresso, the CDS-People’s Party letter refers to internal problems caused by Fidesz within the EPP, which have “clearly and purposely broken the union” of the political family and its common objectives.
The differences that separate them “are too crucial to be maintained” and therefore deserve a response from all parties that make up the EPP, the Portuguese party added.
Fidesz initially balked at the idea of an apology, but left the idea open. Reuters reported:
“We listen to other opinions, includ(ing) Weber’s,” Kovacs said. “But more important than party discipline are the defense of European Christian values and stopping migration. On this, we cannot yield.”
But the premier’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, hinted at a possible compromise, telling Reuters there were open lines to Weber and other EPP leaders to find a way to keep Fidesz in.
The New York Times reports that pro-government Hungarian newspapers have urged Fidesz to quit the EPP altogether and instead to join the nationalists in the European Parliament. But members of Fidesz’s leadership suggested that the party would rather remain in EPP, and left the door open to reconciliation.
Hungary’s main pro-government Magyar Nemzet daily has urged Orban’s Fidesz to quit the European People’s Party, saying it had abandoned its formative values and “could not be differentiated from the socialists or liberals”.
“The time has come for Fidesz to stop the humiliating haggling with the European People’s Party,” the paper said in an editorial titled ‘A new alliance!’ on Thursday. “The People’s Party is no longer Helmut Kohl’s party.”
Orban has said the former German chancellor invited Fidesz to join the EPP. Asked about the newspaper editorial, Gulyas said Fidesz wanted to remain within the EPP.
“Fidesz is a member of the European People’s Party and it wants to remain a member of the European People’s Party,” Gulyas said of the editorial, which suggested Fidesz should join forces with European nationalists instead.
As Europe’s right leaning parties gain power amidst the backlash to the center-left abdication of responsibility over immigration, fights like this may become more common. Right wing parties from Europe will be forced to define what they stand for, not only what they stand against. For now, at least, it looks as though Fidesz will make peace with the center-right.