Thursday

23rd Jan 2020

EPP hits threshold to trigger Orban expulsion probe

  • Viktor Orban speaking from the podium on stage at the EPP's congress in Helsinki last November. He warned the group 'should respect winners' (Photo: European People's Party - Flickr)

A total of at least seven national centre-right parties had by Friday (1 March) called for the expulsion or suspension of their fellow member, Hungary's Fidesz - thereby passing the threshold for triggering an internal procedure to examine prime minister Viktor Orban's ruling party's place in Europe's largest political alliance.

Sweden's Christian Democrats and the Moderate party have sent letters to the president of the European People's Party (EPP), Frane's Joseph Daul, calling for the expulsion of Orban's Fidesz.

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"The EPP family cannot include members that do not fully respect the fundamental principles of a liberal democracy," Peter Kullgren, the secretary general of the Christian Democrats said in a letter addressed to Daul, dated 27 February, and seen by EUobserver.

On Friday, Petteri Orpo, the leader of Finland's National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), also sent a letter to Daul saying the EPP should expel Fidesz.

"Fidesz has gone too far. There are reasonable, serious grounds to conclude that Fidesz is in breach of EPP values and principles," Orpo said in a statement.

Orpo in his letter referred to an EPP resolution on protecting EU values adopted last November in Helsinki, which he said Fidesz breached.

"It [Fidesz] has crossed red lines and it has not kept the commitments that have been jointly agreed," Finland's finance minister wrote in the letter.

Earlier in the week three parties signed a letter to Daul asking for Fidesz's expulsion: the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V), the Walloon Humanist Democratic Centre (cdH) and Luxembourg's Christian Social People's Party (CSV).

Portugal's CDS-People's Party, also said it wrote to Daul to expel or suspend Fidesz.

The Dutch Christian Democrats (CDA) said on Thursday they supported an open discussion about Fidesz's place, as "informal discussions with Fidesz no longer have the desired effect", party chairman Rutger Ploum said in a statement.

Options on the table

According to internal rules, at least seven parties from five member states have to initiate the procedure to expel or suspend a member party.

This wave of letters was promoted by the latest campaign by Hungary's Fidesz-led government accusing the EU of pushing migration plans that threaten the security of Hungary.

While the EPP has been riven by the increasingly-authoritarian Orban and his Fidesz for several years, the last straw seems to have been that the latest campaign which attacks EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (a fellow EPP member) personally, and also spreads disinformation about EU policies.

Once all the letters Daul expects are received, the French leader of the EPP will reach out to the presidency of the party to decide on whether to put the issue on the agenda of the meeting of the party's political assembly on 20 March.

The EPP presidency includes Juncker, EU Council president Donald Tusk (an Orban critic), commissioner Marianne Thyssen, who hails from the Flemish party calling for the expulsion, and commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen, whose Finnish party has also called for Fidesz to be kicked out.

The presidency however also includes supporters, or Fidesz-friendly figures, such as Fidesz MEP Kinga Gal, and European Parliament president Antonio Tajani - whose Forza Italia party is a strong ally of Orban's, despite the latter's recent openings to the rival Matteo Salvini of the League.

Depending on what is asked by the parties and decided by the presidency, there could be further discussions at the next assembly meeting on 9 April - or parties could push for a vote.

The EPP's lead candidate for the EU commission presidency, and EPP group leader in the parliament, Germany's Manfred Weber, told German weekly Der Spiegel on Friday that "all options are on the table".

"We are currently discussing this within the EPP," he said, adding: "Viktor Orban has badly damaged the EPP with his comments and poster campaign, so I expect him to apologise and stop these actions".

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