MEPs say József Szájer case highlights ‘hypocrisy’ of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party

They also say that the highly publicised affair should “shine a light” on current anti-LGBTI policies in Hungary.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

03 Dec 2020

Szájer has apologised to his family and voters after he broke COVID-19 measures by participating in the house party last Friday. He was one of twenty men at the party. He was fined €250 for breaking Belgium’s current confinement rules but has not been charged with any criminal act.

The MEP, who says he will now leave Parliament at the end of this month, is a long-standing member of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party that has campaigned for traditional family values and curbed LGBTI rights.

Szájer, a key ally of Orbán, has also subsequently resigned from the ruling Fidesz party after the incident came to light. Police said Szájer had narcotics on him but he denied taking drugs and said he had offered to take a drugs test at the scene.

Speaking to the Magyar Nemzet newspaper, Orbán called Szájer's actions “indefensible” and said they went against the values of Fidesz’ political group, adding, “We will not forget nor repudiate his 30 years of work but his deed is unacceptable.”

“Following this, he took the only appropriate decision when he apologised and resigned from his position as member of the European Parliament and left Fidesz.”

David Manzheley, a 29-year-old doctoral student who organised the party attended by Szájer, told Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws that there had been no wrongdoing. “I didn’t know the MEP. I didn’t know he was an MEP. At my parties I invite friends and they bring other friends.”

“We talk a bit, we drink a bit - just like in a café. The only difference is that in the meantime we also have sex with each other. I don't see anything wrong with that.”

On Thursday, Terry Reintke, Greens/EFA deputy leader and co-president of Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup, told this website, “For years Szájer and his Fidesz party made the lives of queer people in Hungary hell. Therefore, this moment should be used to look at what is happening there right now.”

“The biggest crime the MEP in question is guilty of is hypocrisy - with the awful homophobic antics of Fidesz they’re preaching one thing while doing another” Clare Daly, GUE/NGL

“The Orbán regime is continuing its anti-LGBTI policies by planning further discriminatory constitutional changes. The LGBTI community in Hungary has been under immense pressure for years. Our full solidarity goes out to the courageous people who do invaluable work in the local organisations. As a European community we should do everything we can to support them in this.”

Further comment came from Irish GUE/NGL MEP Clare Daly, who also told The Parliament Magazine, “The biggest crime the MEP in question is guilty of is hypocrisy - with the awful homophobic antics of Fidesz they’re preaching one thing while doing another.”

“He [Szájer] has also undermined public health by wilfully breaching the [lockdown] guidelines, which is outrageous also.”

Polish EPP MEP Danuta Hubner, on the question of whether Szájer’s MEP immunity from prosecution should be lifted, said “Normally the national judicial authority asks Parliament for removal of immunity. And it lasts a long time and I am told it will just be a fine by the Belgians.”

She added, “This guy is a fully-fledged legal expert and chose the end of December for leaving so he is not afraid of anything.”

Fidesz is currently suspended from the EPP group, but many MEPs want the party ejected and Hubner believes the Szájer case “is the way to get rid of Fidesz from the EPP.”

“For years Szájer and his Fidesz party made the lives of queer people in Hungary hell. Therefore, this moment should be used to look at what is happening there right now” Terry Reintke, Greens/EFA deputy leader and co-president of Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup

However, some believe no further action should be taken against Szájer, with former UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff telling this site, “Szájer has been fined for breaking Covid rules. Isn’t that enough?”

An ECR source also said, “I’m not sure a crime has been committed or that he is accused of one. I understand that he broke the Covid protocol for which he will be fined.”

A Parliament source said, “Parliamentary immunity is not a member’s personal privilege, but a guarantee that an MEP can freely exercise his or her mandate and cannot be exposed to arbitrary political persecution. As such, it guarantees the independence and integrity of the Parliament as a whole.”

“MEPs cannot be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings because of opinions expressed or votes cast in their capacity as MEP. In his Member State it is similar to the immunity granted to members of national parliaments.”

The source went on, “All members have immunity if authorities want to launch criminal proceedings against them. Immunity cannot be claimed when a member is found in the act of committing an offence, which is quite rare.”

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