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8th Aug 2022

EPP group moves forward to suspend Orban's Fidesz

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament will press ahead on Wednesday (3 March) with a vote on new rules for suspending member parties - despite Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban threat that his Fidesz party will leave the group if the vote takes place.

MEPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday morning to change the rules of procedure of the parliamentary group to allow the suspension of the activities of a member party.

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Hungary's Fidesz has been suspended from its umbrella political family, the EPP, since 2019 - but it has had little effect on the positions of Fidesz's 12 MEPs in the parliamentary group.

One Fidesz MEP, Livia Jaroka, is the vice-president of the parliament, and several others are vice-chairs of different committees.

EPP sources told EUobserver that the move to rewrite internal rules is part of an effort to bring those MEPs' status into line with Fidesz's suspension from the party family.

"We need to ensure cohesion with the party decision-making," one EPP source said.

The change in rules requires a two-thirds majority among the group's 187 MEPs. EPP sources said only the Fidesz delegation spoke out against the new rules at an internal meeting last Friday.

Slovenian MEPs from prime minister Janez Jansa's party, who recently came under criticism for verbal attacks on journalists, might also back their Fidesz colleagues, a source added.

After any such new rules are introduced, MEPs are expected to vote on the suspension of Fidesz MEPs' activities, within a week or two, which will require a simple majority, a source said.

That would mean that Fidesz MEPs could no longer speak or act on behalf of the EPP group, and could no longer represent the EPP group.

Orban, for his part, is no longer invited to EPP party family gatherings since the party's suspension.

The Hungarian prime minister, in a letter on Sunday to group leader German MEP Manfred Weber, said that "if Fidesz is not welcome, we do not feel compelled to stay in the group."

Orban argued that it is "undemocratic to limit the rights of MEPs" and that the move will weaken the EPP political family.

The threat of Fidesz leaving the EPP group - not the EPP political family - did not seem to change the momentum among MEPs. (The EPP political family is larger, and includes member parties from non-EU countries.)

"Many MEPs do not appreciate this communication from Orban with the official prime minister letterhead," another EPP source said.

"The will [to hold the] vote is larger now than the fear of losing MEPs," the source added.

Rewriting the internal rules has been in the making since December, when Fidesz delegation leader, MEP Tamas Deutsch, was suspended after comparing comments made by Weber to slogans of the Nazi Gestapo and Hungary's communist-era secret police.

The EPP, the party and the group itself, has been struggling with how to handle Orban and his ruling Fidesz party, which has challenged EU values and rules and is locked in a dispute with several EU institutions.

"I am a friend of dialogue, but Fidesz has made no move in the past to change. I am not going to let Orban succeed with blackmail again now. The reform will come and have an impact," Austrian MEP Othmar Karas said on Twitter.

Expelling Fidesz from the EPP party family remains a decision of political leaders of the party.

EPP president Donald Tusk has hoped to go ahead with a personal meeting in June to decide on Fidesz's fate - but it might be again postponed due to the pandemic.

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