Hungarian Fidesz finalizes EPP divorce
Hungary’s right-wing party Fidesz on Thursday resigned from the European People’s Party, the EU’s powerful center-right political group that includes the German CDU.
Fidesz Vice-President Katalin Novák, who is Minister of Family Affairs in the government of nationalist leader Viktor Orban, shared on social media a letter from the party’s international secretariat notifying the EPP Secretary General of her group’s resignation.
“It’s time to say goodbye,” she wrote on Twitter.
Fidesz has maintained strained relations with the EPP for years as Budapest clashed in Brussels over perceived violations of the rule of law and media freedom, and democratic setback in the decade following the return Orban in power. In 2019, Fidesz was suspended from the EPP. Earlier this month, Fidesz left the EPP group in the European Parliament after voting to change its rules of procedure.
The continued presence of the Hungarian party within the EPP, the EU’s largest party family, has long been a source of tension. The disagreements deepened following Orban’s uncompromising response to the 2015 migration crisis. He has also been criticized for what opponents see as an effort to place Hungarian institutions under his direct control and build what in 2014 he dubbed an “illiberal democracy”. Donald Tusk, EPP chairman, who has been a vocal critic of Orban, welcomed the news.
“Fidesz has left the Christian democracy. In truth, he left many years ago, ”he tweeted.
Now that he has left the European mainstream, Orban has hinted that he will create a new platform for like-minded right-wing nationalist parties.
Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, a Budapest-based think tank, said: “Orban will most likely attempt to reorganize the radical right-wing populist scene in Europe. But the chances for that are very limited: 11 MEPs are simply not enough to serve as the backbone of any new grouping in the European Parliament. “
Fidesz’s coalition partner, the Christian Democratic People’s Party, should remain in the EPP. Kreko said: “With a member of the Christian Democrats remaining in the [EPP], [Fidesz] can be fully informed of what is going on in the rival group.
Meanwhile, Hungary faces litigation under Article 7 of the TEU, which could cause it to lose its right to vote in the 27-member bloc. It will also be subject to a new rule of law mechanism that will increase oversight over the distribution of EU funds and reduce them if members are recognized in violation of democratic standards.
News of Fidesz’s departure came as Hungary struggled to cope with a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country now has the second highest Covid-related death rate in the EU, after the Czech Republic.
Health officials said on Thursday 207 deaths had been recorded in the previous 24 hours, the highest on record since the start of the pandemic. Hungary continues to record increasing levels of new infections despite being the first EU country to approve and administer vaccines produced in Russia and China.