Greece’s ruling Syriza lashed out at conservative opposition New Democracy party on Friday (12 October), after Alexander Stubb, a contender for the EPP Spitzenkandidat position, told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview there is no room for populism in the European centre-right family.
“Greek New Democracy party (EPP-affiliated) remains silent on the warm ties between [Hungary’s PM Viktor] Orbán and neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, rushing out to endorse hardliner Weber as EPP candidate for head of European Commission,” said European Parliament Vice-President and Syriza MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis.
“Why isn’t Mr Mitsotakis endorsing Stubb? Do his views oppose the far-right wing of New Democracy?” Papadimoulis wondered, referring to the New Democracy leader.
The political atmosphere in Greece has heated up ahead of the EU and local election. Syriza accuses Kyriakos Mitsotakis of bowing to the pressure of the far-right wing within his party, saying this was why he opposes the Prespa Agreement recently reached between Athens and Skopje, a landmark deal on Skopje’s name change.
Mitsotakis has officially endorsed Bavarian Manfred Weber (CSU) to lead the European People’s Party ahead of the EU election in May.
“He is the right man,” Greek media recently quoted Mitsotakis as saying.
Weber also enjoys the support of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and is not closing the door to Italy’s far-right leader Matteo Salvini saying there needs to be dialogue and compromise.
Salvini and France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen have recently decided to join forces ahead of the EU election in May.
“For me, the EPP is about values – and certainly far-right is not a value that the EPP holds true. I don’t like the flirtations with Salvini, or with PiS in Poland, or with any illiberal elements of European values,” Stubb told EURACTIV in the interview.
“I think we need to split this into two. One side is the question of what the EPP does stand for. If you don’t stick to EPP values and rules, then you should be out. Go do something else,” the centre-right politician emphasised.
Orbán has recently created another headache for the EPP when he sent a letter to Greek far-right Golden Dawn EU lawmakers thanking them for their support during last month’s vote in the European Parliament on the activation of Article 7 against Hungary.
The letter triggered strong reactions and the Greek government called on Mitsotakis to immediately ask his European family to expel Orbán’s party. New Democracy publicly supported the activation of Article 7, as did Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP party) and the Scandinavian member parties.
This reinforced the perception that a number of EPP politicians feel uncomfortable sitting at the same centre-right table with Orbán.
An EPP source recently told EURACTIV that the process to expel a party member is a specific one but so far no EPP parties have launched it.