Fidesz, the party of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has left the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament after the group voted to allow members to strip the privileges of other members.
Prime Minister Orbán wrote a letter to the chairman of the EPP, Manfred Weber of the Angela Merkel aligned CSU party, announcing that Fidesz MEPs would leave the group, accusing the EPP of “trying to mute and disable our democratically elected MEPs” as many were concerned with the Wuhan virus pandemic.
Hungarian Family Minister Katalin Novák shared the letter on social media, the message stating that the EPP amendments to the group’s rules are “anti-democratic, unjust, and unacceptable”.
“Our MEPs will continue to speak for whom they represent, our voters, and defend the best interest of the Hungarian people, ” Prime Minister Orbán wrote.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga commented on the move, blaming Weber, who she accused of weakening the group. She also stated that during the pandemic Weber was “preoccupied with exclusion and political discrimination”.
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“Our disagreement with the EPP did not begin recently. We have known for some time that Manfred Weber does not want to lead the group of the European People’s Party along with Christian-Conservative values,” she added.
The move to leave the EPP, the largest association in the European Parliament and home of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), comes after years of conflict between so-called “centre-right” members of the group and Fidesz over several issues.
In March of 2019, EPP members voted to suspend Fidesz after complaining of anti-EU rhetoric from the party during the European Parliament elections.
Members such as the Swedish Moderates and the Swedish Christian Democrats were particularly vocal about suspending the Hungarian conservatives, with Moderate politician Tomas Tobé alleging that the Orbán government was dismantling the rule of law domestically.
“I am very critical of the development in Hungary and do not believe that Fidesz should remain in the [EPP] group; it is time for them to leave now,” Tobé said at the time.
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In April of 2020, 13 parties in the EPP called for the president of the group, Donald Tusk, to expel Fidesz after claiming the government’s emergency law to combat the spread of the Wuhan virus could be extended “indefinitely”.
“The fight against COVID-19 requires extensive measures, however, the virus cannot be used as a pretext to extend the state of emergency indefinitely. We fear that Prime Minister Orbán will use his newly achieved power to further extend the government’s grip on civil society,” the parties said.
The European Commission later admitted the Hungarian emergency law did not violate any European Union rules. The Hungarian parliament then went on to vote to end the state of emergency in June of last year, before many other EU countries.
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