Romanian EPP avoids Orban expulsion letter fearing border backlash

PNL chief Ludovic Orban is also the Prime Minister of Romania. [EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT]

Romania’s National Liberal Party (PNL) has not joined a call of 13 centre-right leaders to expel Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party from the European People’s Party (EPP) fearing a backlash at the Romanian-Hungarian border, EURACTIV.com has learnt.

PNL is the largest EPP member-party in Romania. The other two are the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), which represents the Hungarian minority community in Romania and is apparently close to Orbán, and the People’s Movement Party (PMP).

On 2 April, centre-right leaders from Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden signed a letter asking EPP chief Donald Tusk to expel Orbán’s party.

Centre-right leaders ask Tusk to expel Orban’s Fidesz from EPP

Eleven of Europe’s centre-right political leaders have asked Donald Tusk, the president of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), to expel Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party from its ranks, according to a letter seen by EURACTIV.com.

“The law passed by the Hungarian parliament on 30 March, which allows the Hungarian government to indefinitely extend the country’s state of emergency and allows Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree, this is a clear violation of the founding principles of liberal democracy and European values,” the letter states.

Germany’s powerful CDU and CSU parties, as well as France’s centre-right parties, were not among the signatories. Slovenia’s new Prime Minister Janez Janša, who has been an ally of Orbán in recent years, did not sign the letter either.

A source told EURACTIV that the party supports efforts to expel Fidesz from the EPP due to a series of breaches of the EU and party values and “this can be ensured by the fact that PNL’s MEPs voted in favour of activating the Article 7 against Hungary”.

According to the source, though, the timing of the letter is not opportune as political leaders should focus entirely on the Covid-19 crisis.

In Romania, the coronavirus crisis has exposed severe shortcomings in the healthcare system. Many doctors have resigned while a number of health workers have been infected with the coronavirus.

Orban has 'no time' for EU allies' criticism

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said Friday (3 April) he has “no time” for scathing criticism by EU allies of sweeping powers he took on this week to tackle the coronavirus threat.

In addition, the source said PNL did not want to escalate tensions with Orbán, whose moves have been unpredictable, and eventually face a backlash at the border.

“In the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Hungary shut its borders which resulted in numerous trucks being stuck in Romania. It’s not the right moment to spoil good neighbourly relations,” the source said.

Shortly after the 13 leaders’ call, Maltese conservative leader Adrian Delia sent a separate letter to Tusk saying an extraordinary EPP summit should be held to discuss the matter.

EURACTIV was informed that Delia sent another letter to Tusk yesterday (14 April) asking him to also address the issue of irregular migration from Libya and the Covid-19 at the summit.

“We now have a state of medical emergency in our country […] With the ongoing Libyan conflict, the situation has been further complicated. Reports have shown a significant increase in traffic of migrant boats leaving North Africa for Europe,” he said.

“We definitely are in need of an effective and enforceable solidarity mechanism to address this matter and in line with the values which we cherish,” he added.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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