The Brief, powered by EUROBAT – Orban could do the EU a big favour

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is splitting the EPP. But by doing so, he could actually save Europe from a nightmare scenario: the centre-right and the far-right forging a Eurosceptic majority coalition in the next European Parliament.

According to the latest projections, the EPP, together with the current ECR, EFDD and ENF groups, plus 30+ others on the far-right side, could command a majority of more than 360 in the 706-seat post-Brexit parliament.

If Orbán leaves the EPP, it will not be a tectonic shift. He will join the ECR, and the EPP and the ECR will be friends. The same coalition, just slightly reshuffled.

But if Orbán persists in staying with the EPP, or if he doesn’t get expelled in the coming weeks, several national parties could be pushed to abandon the mothership. Where will they go? There are other sailboats more to the centre, in particular, Macron’s Renaissance flotilla.

And then the balance of power will shift. The “progressives”, or whatever name they will choose, will have a majority over the black and blue camp.

The bottom line is that it’s all about ideology. There are national parties within the EPP family with little affinity on many issues. Possibly a majority are right-leaning. But a minority of EPP members are much more centrist and faithful to traditional values of the grouping.

This division was highlighted by the internal Spitzenkandidaten contest. The vote that elected Manfred Weber gave 20% to Alexander Stubb, the Finnish candidate who could hardly be more different than Weber. Yes, it’s the same division. Orbán was, and remains, the dividing line.

In individual countries, there is often more than one party affiliated to EPP. But ideologically, the differences are exactly the same.

And in the same country, one or more are in the Orbán camp (in Eastern Europe many see him as a hero), while others fear that their voters will punish them because of the dangerously close relationship with the Victator.

If one-fifth of the future MEPs from the EPP were to side with Macron’s force, before or after the European elections, it would be a game-changer. It would be a nightmare scenario for the EPP, but a healthy development for Europe. EPP will survive, but this force, which has contributed a lot to the European project, needs some soul-searching.

So let’s keep our fingers crossed that Orbán stays in the EPP…

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The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

French President Macron’s call “for a European renewal” stirs friends and foes ahead of EU elections. Read the reactions from around Europe in our new edition of The Capitals and subscribe here for more on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network.

Dear President Macron, rEUnaissance is the way to go, argues the EESC president Luca Jahier.

Meanwhile, the Spanish far-right joins Hungary’s PM Victor Orban in his defence of the ‘Europe of Nations.’

Russian disinformation attempts to weaken ‘America’s commitment to Europe,’ the US ambassador to Brussels says

Between 200 and 400 online platforms are currently hosting content that could lead to terrorist radicalisation, the European Commission has said.

In the UK, the House of Commons appears set to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal next week after government ministers conceded that little progress had been made on the Irish backstop.

Italy is set to become the first member of the ‘Group of Seven’ most powerful nations to join China’s infrastructure plan “One Belt, One Road”, despite the heightened scrutiny of Beijing’s investment in Europe.

EU member states rejected the Commission’s blacklist of countries unwilling to cooperate in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, as they blamed the EU executive of not being transparent during the drafting process.

A UK study setting recommendations for the country’s post-Brexit trade and agriculture has challenged the EU’s sugar policy of the last decade.

EU Commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan has encouraged member states to take advantage of the new Common Agricultural Policy’s flexibility and tackle issues related to rural women.

Look out for…

International Women’s Day!

We need to tackle violence against women and girls as in South-Eastern and Eastern Europe they often still live in danger, argues OSCE’s Thomas Greminger.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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