Thursday

28th Jan 2021

Opinion

Dear EPP: Please, please expel Orban

  • Hungary's PM Viktor Orban (EPP, suspended) meets European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (also EPP). (Photo: European Commission)

I am a first-term member of the European Parliament, and ever since I set foot in this building, I have admired the respectful, centrist, consensus-seeking culture governing European politics, especially because of my starkly different experience in Hungary.

It is this pro-European political centre that is attacked by prime minister Viktor Orbán in his recent memorandum, addressing the European People's Party (EPP).

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  • I am a first-term member of the European Parliament, and ever since I set foot here, I have admired the respectful, centrist, consensus-seeking culture governing European politics - especially because of my starkly-different experience in Hungary (Photo: Wikimedia)

It is a call to burn bridges towards liberal and centre-left allies and guide Europe's centre right into the arms of the far right. These bridges, in fact, are already crumbling, precisely because EPP continues to accommodate far-right authoritarians.

The timing is no coincidence. German Christian Democrats are preparing for a bruising strategic battle, deciding their stance towards right-wing extremists (not unlike Orbán's own party). The political firestorm set forth in Thuringia showed just how much is at stake in this debate.

Dear moderate conservative friends, the choice is yours to make. Let me remind you: actively doing nothing is a choice as well.

As a member of Orbán's opposition in Hungary and the centrist party family in the EP's grand coalition, I am here to remind you whom you are choosing between. Is your political home in the pro-European centre or in Orbán's camp of far-right authoritarian nativists?

Since last year's European elections, our political centre may be more fragmented - colourful is my preferred term - but it holds strongly.

The big far right surge the Orbáns, Salvinis and Le Pens were banking on was frankly, nowhere to be seen.

I work with EPP colleagues every day and have our fair share of differences. But above ideologies, we do share a belief in the European project, in democracy and the rule of law. On these grounds, we seek and find compromises to deliver for the people who elected us.

EPP's continued inaction against Fidesz, the infinite loops of voicing critique and then chickening out before action puts this common ground in existential danger.

I cherish these collegiate relations and friendships because I come from a political culture that is dramatically different.

It has been dominated by Fidesz for a decade, and transformed into an increasingly authoritarian and oppressive environment.

In today's Hungary, endeavours to stand up for what you believe in are often met with harassment and blind hate. Activists voice genuine concerns about state employers or service providers retaliating against them or their families for social media posts criticizing Fidesz.

State-funded propaganda is used to bully not only opposition politicians but journalists and academics. A pro-government paper, for instance, published an "Enemies' List" with independent public intellectuals' names because of their alleged ties to the opposition.

Divisive and hateful language is sowed by the prime minister himself and it incites violence (as it always does): a few weeks ago, our local forum in Budapest was disrupted by a bottle thrown at us from a balcony.

There's no need for another list about Fidesz's violations of European values, you can read about them in your 'Three Wise Men's' report.

You witnessed attacks against the independent judiciary - that are now emulated, even outdone in Poland; witnessed Central European University's forced departure.

Scam artist

Behind PR stunts, there is a predatory state that channels EU funds to cronies and tramples upon European values.

EPP's procrastination game and the ever-prolonged bogus suspension of Fidesz is disappointing to say the least.

I lost faith it would ever end. Orbán's tactic is a patient one and time is on his side.

My plea to you, centre-right colleagues and friends: do not wait around until you find your political family in bed with the far-right. If Orbán's vision is not yours and a non-solution is all EPP can offer, it may be you who should consider finding another political home.

Orbán is not a great European but the smallest, pettiest one. He is not a statesman but a scam artist.

And here's the thing with scam artists: they attempt to gain your trust to rip you off. He's already stealing your money and if you don't pay attention, he will steal your soul too.

Author bio

Katalin Cseh is an MEP of Hungary’s Momentum Movement and vice-chair of the Renew Europe group.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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