EXCLUSIVE-Slovenian centre-right: Cancel Orbán vote or EPP is ‘inevitably’ split

Janša put the blame on European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, also from an EPP member, stating that he was the one who started the dispute with Orbán. [Shutterstock]

Updates with Janez Janša comment

The leader of the centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) has asked the European People’s Party chief and EPP members to cancel a vote today to expel Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz from the centre-right family, saying the EPP could otherwise risk a split just before the European elections.

“Mr President Daul, dear colleagues, please, do everything to avoid a split in the EPP family at the very beginning of the main EU elections campaign. Cancel or postpone the voting. Whatever the result will be, we lose,” janez Janša wrote in a dramatic letter to Joseph Daul, seen by EURACTIV Croatia.

“If we vote, no matter the outcome, we face an unavoidable split in the EPP. Picking this specific time of voting could not be more self-destructive,” the two-time prime minister added.

'Juncker started the fight with Orbán'

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker was the one who picked a fight with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and he should stop meddling in party politics, former PM and leader of the centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) told EURACTIV Croatia.

Janša put the blame on European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, also an EPP member, stating that Juncker was the one who started the dispute with Orbán.

“We agreed before the last congress at Helsinki not to discuss Fidesz membership in the EPP before the EU elections. But it was Juncker who (as president of the European Commission should in principle stay out of pure party politics) publicly called for Fidesz to be expelled from the EPP”.

Janša added that the EPP parties overwhelmingly backed as Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber, who must stay out of the discussion over Orbán’s EPP future.

“With his involvement in the conflict, we gave a great gift to our political competitors just before the final phase of the electoral campaign,” Janša said.

“I am afraid that with the possible expulsion of Fidesz from the EPP, our political family will significantly lose ground in the major part of the Central and Eastern Europe,” Janša concluded.

The EPP is due to decide on Wednesday (20 March), at the request of 13 party members, whether or not to expel Orbán’s Fidesz party, following an anti-EU campaign against Juncker in Hungary.

Earlier today, German conservative leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed a suspension of Fidesz, rather than an outright expulsion.

She said suspension “would be a good option until trust was rebuilt with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán”.

Greece’s New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is also in favour of a suspension.

“If we reject him, then we are pushing him into the arms of Salvini,” a CDU source told EURACTIV Germany last week.

EPP protects Orbán for now, fearing he might join far-right

The EPP does not want to raise tensions with its ‘bad boy’ Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán because this might push him towards joining Italian populist Matteo Salvini or even far-right Marine Le Pen, a Christian-Democrat (CDU) told EURACTIV.de.

One EPP source told EURACTIV Janša’s letter had not been distributed among EPP members ahead of the summit. “He has probably preferred to send it to the media rather than to all the EPP people,” the source said and added that Janša has been known to support Orban’s hardline immigration policies.

Following the publication of this article, Janša wrote on Twitter that the letter was sent on Monday to presidents of all EPP member parties and not to media.

“Anyhow, the (EPP) Political Assembly is meeting from 15:00 and they are the ones taking the decision of what will happen with Fidesz EPP membership. The decision has nothing to be with immigration policy as Orban and some others have been spinning the media for months, the decision has to do with trust between EPP member parties,” the EPP source added.

The source said the EPP Political Assembly would “vote on the proposal tabled by its Presidency, which means Fidesz would lose the right to vote in all party meetings and the right to propose candidates for posts. Fidesz would no longer be present at all in EPP meetings”.

For further monitoring of the cooperation between the EPP and FIDESZ, an evaluation committee under the leadership of former European Council President Herman van Rompuy, will be created, the source added.

The Capitals: ‘Useful idiots’ want me out of EPP, Orbán says

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EU left’s useful idiots’: In an interview with the German newspaper ‘Die Welt …

Samuel Stolton contributed to this story.

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Zoran Radosavljevic]

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