After years of disagreements, Fidesz’s exit from the European People Party’s (EPP) group in the European Parliament was a step long overdue. The question remains, however, where Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s puszta populism will find its new shelter.
He still needs to be formally kicked out of the EPP party itself, the political family which groups Europe’s centre-right parties.
Such a step might be more complicated than it seems as it would require an in-person party meeting and a formal vote on the future of Fidesz in the EPP party, which may be difficult during the pandemic.
If Fidesz were to stay in the EPP, this would result in an unprecedented situation where a national party that is a member of the EPP would not be part of the political family’s group in the European Parliament.
Should the party enact a complete exit in due course, Fidesz is unlikely to settle for a permanent non-attached status in the European Parliament.
Besides, Orbán’s flirt with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) is already an open secret. Both ECR co-Chairmen right away expressed their sympathies and solidarity with Fidesz against what they called “a clearly hostile move”.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party are Orbán’s natural allies. And he has recently made efforts to improve relations with Italy’s nationalist Brothers of Italy, another ECR member.
However, admitting Fidesz into ECR would require a substantial change in the internal power-sharing of its leadership – both party and group are dominated by Poles and Italians and have group co-presidents coming from the two countries. The question is, whether they are ready to share power.
At the same time, Fidesz is a force to reckon with, and it is highly unlikely they would be satisfied to join a party/group where they will wield no power.
And what about the state of the EPP itself?
The group has always aimed to be represented in all member states, but losing Fidesz means losing its presence in Hungary. At the same time, it will lose a significant amount of financial and human resources, as well as several positions in the European Parliament, also in committees where votes can be tight.
Asked if the party fears that Orbán might take other members with him, an EPP source told EURACTIV that “such a scenario is rather unlikely”.
However, let’s remember that Fidesz is not the only enfant terrible inside the party.
French, Italian, Slovenian, Hungarian and Croat members voted against the amendments, according to EPP sources.
MEPs from the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, which represents the Hungarian minority in Romania, might follow their natural leader Orbán in his new plans.
However, sources familiar with the issue also explained that it would be to Orban’s advantage to keep those two MEPs inside the EPP, to keep a close eye on the developments in his former family.
Besides Orban’s Fidesz, Europe’s other troublemaker, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), also part of the EPP, has so far seemed little more than a minor glitch in the big family.
However, this could be set to change. Janša has recently glorified former US President Donald Trump’s storming of the US Capitol and is developing the habit of attacking journalists for their work. All this with Slovenia due to take over the rotating EU Council presidency in July.
If Janša doesn’t choose to leave, he may well become the EPP’s new Orbán and ultimately find his political “raison d’être“.
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Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Josie Le Blond]