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Hungary's Orban quits center-right EU alliance

March 3, 2021

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says Fidesz is quitting the European People's Party, an alliance of center-right EU lawmakers, after EPP officials changed internal rules to make it easier to expel members.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has quit the EPP blocImage: John Thys/AP Photo/picture alliance

On Wednesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz quit the center-right European People's Party bloc in the European Parliament after EPP members backed rule changes that would have made it easier to kick lawmakers out.

One hundred forty-eight MEPs voted in favor of, and 28 against, new rules to allow them to suspend or dismiss an entire national party delegation

The EPP group is the biggest in the parliament. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats are members.

Orban pulls Fidesz

Orban hit out in a letter released on Wednesday, saying Fidesz was quitting before it could be ousted from the center-right alliance.

"I hereby inform you that Fidesz MEPs resign their membership in the EPP group," Orban wrote to group leader Manfred Weber, claiming the changes were "clearly a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters."

Hungary: Orban is rebuilding Budapest

EPP officials had already suspended Fidesz from the party itself in 2019 over a Hungarian government campaign that used posters to accuse Jean-Claude Juncker, then the head of the European Commission, and the US billionaire George Soros of plotting to flood Europe with migrants..

Weber speaks of 'a sad day'

EPP chairman Weber said he regretted that Fidesz was leaving, telling a press conference that it was "a sad day because we couldn't manage this anymore." 

Weber said the behavior of Hungary's ruling party towards the European Union was a main reason for the split: "It is about rule of law. It is about the things that are going on in Hungary. That is the substance of the problem. It's a provocative approach against Europe in some of the statements of Viktor Orban." 

The vote on changing the parliamentary grouping suspension rules came after the EPP sanctioned Fidesz group leader Tamas Deutsch.

He had compared remarks by Weber, a member of the Bavarian Christian Social Union party, to the slogans of the Gestapo and the Hungarian Communist Party's secret police.

It follows years of tensions within the EPP, with splits emerging over whether to keep the Hungarian ruling party inside the group.

More centrist members of the EPP have backed charges of backsliding on democracy and the rule of law leveled at Budapest by EU institutions.

It is as yet unclear whether Orban's MEPs will seek to join another group inside the parliament.

jf/nm (AFP, Reuters)