Fidesz will unilaterally “freeze” exercise of its rights in the European People’s Party
21. 03. 2019.
At an international press conference after the Political Assembly of the European People’s Party in Brussels, Prime Minister and President of Fidesz Viktor Orbán announced that Fidesz will unilaterally “freeze” the exercise of its rights in the European People’s Party (EPP) until completion of a report by a three-member committee appointed by the EPP. The press conference was broadcast live by public service television news channel M1.

Mr. Orbán said that the People’s Party has asked “three wise heads” to prepare a report to enable a decision on the long-term future of the People’s Party and the relationship between the People’s Party and Fidesz. He described the establishment of the committee as an acceptable solution.

The President of Fidesz stated: “the will of Hungarian citizens has ensured that in the last three European Parliament elections we received 47, 56 and 52 per cent of the vote respectively. Obviously such a party will not allow itself to be suspended or expelled, but will rather stand up and leave of its own accord.”

Mr. Orbán said: “The solution we’ve chosen is that while these three people are preparing their report, we shall unilaterally “freeze” the exercise of our rights […], wait for the report from these three people, and then sit down again to discuss matters with the People’s Party.”

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi

The Hungarian prime minister stressed that Hungary’s political standpoint remains unchanged, which was something he also made clear at the EPP’s Political Assembly. He said that Hungary wants a strong Europe and a strong European Union, its policy on immigration will not change, and it regards the defence of Christian Europe and Christian culture as a primary goal.

Mr. Orbán said that Fidesz itself has also set up its own “committee of three wise people”, which will be led by Fidesz Vice-President Katalin Novák. The other members of the committee will be Judit Varga, Minister of State for EU Affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office, and József Szájer, Fidesz-KDNP Member of the European Parliament. They will negotiate with the three people delegated by the People’s Party, and after the European parliamentary elections they will present a report to Fidesz on the following: how to shape the relationship between Fidesz and the EPP; whether there is a place for Fidesz in the People’s Party; what kind of People’s Party can accommodate Fidesz; and what Fidesz should represent within the People’s Party.

Mr. Orbán said: “the European People’s Party has made a good decision, because it has preserved unity; it has made a good decision in terms of enabling us to launch a united campaign; it has made a good decision because we can continue to support Mr. Weber as our […] lead candidate […]; and we’ve made a good decision because we haven’t closed any doors, and after the elections the People’s Party and Fidesz can freely decide about our relationship with each other.”

The Hungarian prime minister described the debate conducted in the People’s Party as very interesting, stimulating and enlightening. He said in the past few weeks the future of the EPP has been called into question, and so the debate was about its future. He described the EPP as an unprecedentedly courageous enterprise: a party family which extends all the way from liberal-left parties to “our kind” of Christian-conservative parties of the right. He added that the special feature of this experiment is the attempt to keep these very divergent parties within a single community. Historically the grouping has been quite successful in this, he stressed, enabling it to become the largest force in European party politics.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi

At the same time Mr. Orbán pointed out that over the past few weeks thirteen parties – the left-liberal wing of “this large and colourful community” – have proposed the expulsion of those who are “right over on the Christian-conservative wing”: Fidesz. He said that these parties want to transform the European People’s Party into an organisation whose “profile is much more limited, and whose centre of gravity is not where it is today, but much further left, in the liberal direction”.

Mr. Orbán added that what has lent a special dimension to this debate is that it has been happening on the eve of an election campaign: “and I have to say that no political formation can receive a more welcome gift than its opponent setting about slicing itself up two months before an election.”

According to the Hungarian prime minister, while the stakes are the European People’s Party’s future and its spiritual and ideological character, another question has been whether the EPP will be able to restore its unity and act as a single united party in the elections, so that it can defeat the socialists and remain the strongest party family in the European Union.

Mr. Orbán also said that he had attempted to convince the presidents of the thirteen parties to revoke their motion of expulsion, because “this is not good for the campaign, and in the long run it is not good for the European People’s Party; but they were not prepared to do so”. He added that had they revoked their motion, there would have been no need for the debate today.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi

He stressed that Fidesz would like the EPP to remain the strongest party in European politics, and to be able to run a united campaign: “And in the long run we do not want the European People’s Party to be dominated by left-liberal ideas, but to remain a balanced party family. This will only be possible if we are also present within it, as a party which represents Christian-conservative values.”

He underlined that in the interest of unity it had been decided to revisit “the Austrian scenario” of 2000, and this is what they had proposed as a compromise. In 2000, he said, “there were moves everywhere to exclude the Austrian People’s Party” because it had entered into a coalition with Jörg Haider, and in that instance also the EPP appointed a body of “three wise people” to investigate the issues.