Fidesz resigns from EPP Group after overwhelming vote in favour of new rules

Parliament’s biggest political group will have 11 less seats after Wednesday’s vote, bringing to an end a period of protracted wrangling over whether Fidesz should remain a member.
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By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

03 Mar 2021

Hungary’s Fidesz is no longer a member of the EPP Group, resigning with immediate effect after 84 percent of EPP MEPs voted in favour of new Rules of Procedure that would allow them to suspend the right-wing party.

The new rules, which replace those in place since 2013, are applicable from today and specify the procedures related to membership of the Group and under what conditions suspensions and exclusions can take place.

The EPP Group, which is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 187 Members, will see its seats reduced to 176 after the resignation of Fidesz.

For its part, Fidesz, which had already promised the leave the EPP Group if the motion were to be passed, made good on its pledge, sending a letter to EPP Group Chair Manfred Weber on Wednesday, confirming its resignation in the wake of the overwhelming vote.

In the letter, Fidesz leader, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán expressed his “disappointment” to see the EPP Group “paralysed by inner administrative issues” and its attempt to “mute and disable our democratically elected MEPs.”

He went on, “The amendments to the rules of the EPP Group are clearly a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters. Limiting our MEPs’ ability to carry out their duties as elected Members of the European Parliament deprives Hungarian voters from their democratic rights.”

“Proud that today the EPP Group adopted the revised Rules of Procedure by a resounding two-thirds majority, refusing to cave in the face of Orbán’s last-ditch attempt at blackmail” Christophe Hansen, EPP Group

“This is anti-democratic, unjust and unacceptable. Therefore the governing body of Fidesz has decided to leave the EPP Group immediately.”

It is as yet unclear where the Fidesz MEPs will end up after their departure from the EPP - whether they will become independents or form a new group - though there is some speculation over whether they may migrate to the Identity and Democracy Group or the ECR.

As far as most MEPs were concerned, the news of Fidesz’ departure from the EPP Group was warmly welcomed, with many lamenting the fact that it had taken so long in the face of rule of law violations and the flouting of EU values.

Paulo Rangel, a vice-chair of the EPP Group, called it “very good news” that the new rules of procedure in the EPP Group had been approved by 84 percent. He added, “A big step that so many national delegations have been fighting for years and years.”

Austrian EPP member Othmar Karas said, “The EPP Group has just set the course for the future. With 84 percent approval, new rules were passed that enable us to impose sanctions on entire delegations. This vote is also a clear sign of the ability to act and credibility.”

He added, “Today's vote is also a rejection of Viktor Orbán’s blackmail attempt. We in the EPP Group don't let us dictate what to vote on. Orbán’s approach is one of a series of disturbing statements by Fidesz politicians.”

“The amendments to the rules of the EPP Group are clearly a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters … This is anti-democratic, unjust and unacceptable. Therefore the governing body of Fidesz has decided to leave the EPP Group immediately”

Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister and Fidesz leader

Finnish EPP deputy Petri Sarvamaa said, “It’s time for Fidesz to finally leave the Group - it is clear that they do not respect our shared values,” while fellow member Christophe Hansen said he was “proud that today the EPP Group adopted the revised Rules of Procedure by a resounding two-thirds majority, refusing to cave in the face of Orbán’s last-ditch attempt at blackmail.”

Other political groups in Parliament expressed their relief at the “long-overdue” departure of Fidesz from the EPP.

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield Greens/EFA MEP and Parliament’s rapporteur for the situation in Hungary, said, “For too long the political cover provided by the EPP to the Hungarian government has given Viktor Orbán legitimacy to his illiberal political project. We hope that our EPP colleagues will now stand shoulder to shoulder with us in defending the rule of law and European democracy.”

She said that this was “never just about where Fidesz sit in Brussels and Strasbourg; it’s about how EU Member States ignore the Hungarian government's actions and breaches of the rule of law.”

“So long as Germany, France and other continue refuse to stand up to Orbán in the Council, it will continue to amount to endorsing his anti-democratic agenda. By pandering to Orbán's threats over major Council decisions and refusing to pursue the Article 7 procedure, EU governments are standing idle as Hungary continues its turn towards autocracy.”

German S&D member Udo Bullmann said, “For a long time, Orbán and his party have undermined the rule of law and acted anti-European. Why the EPP never stopped that is a mystery. It could have been faster. Democrats in Hungary urgently need support!”

By pandering to Orbán's threats over major Council decisions and refusing to pursue the Article 7 procedure, EU governments are standing idle as Hungary continues its turn towards autocracy”

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Greens/EFA

GUE/NGL co-chair Martin Schirdewan said, “That was overdue. Orbán and Fidesz leave the EPP and give the conservatives a resounding slap in the face when they say goodbye.”

President of Renew Europe, Dacian Cioloş also welcomed “the long-overdue departure of Fidesz and Viktor Orbán from mainstream European politics.”

He said, “Under Orbán, Fidesz has eroded democracy in Hungary and vandalised European values. Hungarian citizens, who are also European citizens, deserve a Government who will expand their rights, not undermine them.”

His Hungarian colleague Katalin Cseh said that the EPP had “done the bare minimum, about a decade too late,” but added that it was “still heartening to see Parliament's largest political group deciding to stand up for principles and distance themselves from far-right authoritarians who trample upon European values and cozy up to Eastern dictators.”

“Of course, the EPP were not the ones who dismantled democracy in Hungary - that work was done by Orbán and Fidesz. But they shoulder part of the blame.”

Dutch Renew Europe member Sophie in ‘t Veld said, “What a journey. In the 90s, Orbán set out to fight authoritarianism. In 2000 he left the liberals and joined the EPP Group. In 2021 he leaves again, to the extremist right. He has become what he set out to defeat.”

Read the most recent articles written by Lorna Hutchinson - MEPs come out in force against Hungarian anti-LGBTIQ law at Budapest Pride

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