Members of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament on Wednesday sanctioned indefinitely the head of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party in the Parliament, Tamás Deutsch. This week’s sanctioning came after Mr. Deutsch made comments about the EPP’s chairman in the Parliament, Manfred Weber, accusing him in an interview of employing methods used by the Gestapo and the secret police forces in Stalinist Hungary, when dealing with Fidesz. While Mr. Deutsch had apologised after the incident, it starkly reignited the EPP’s internal fight about Fidesz’s membership.
The EPP’s internal fight between Fidesz and the rest of the centre-right Group seems to be a never-ending story, with this week’s events only the latest in a long list of publicly displayed grievances.
Despite an internal petition drafted by Austral Othmas Karas and co-signed by more than 40 MEPs, including the Irish delegation, calling for Deutsch’s expulsion, Wednesday’s assembly of the largest group in the Parliament failed to make a decision on that key question. Instead, the group only managed to sanction him by taking away any rights to speaking time in plenary on behalf of the group, privileges to lead on legislative files or any other formal positions on behalf of the group “until further decisions are made”.
In parallel, Fidesz MEPs are called on to reflect on whether their fundamental political convictions are still compatible with the values and core content of the EPP.
Yet, despite acknowledging that the frequent attacks by Fidesz’ representatives towards the EU and its values are not in line with its core beliefs, the group failed once again to make a final decision on the bigger question of whether to retain the Hungarian party under its umbrella. In fact, Fidesz’s increasingly controversial right-wing and extremist positions on a number of essential topics, ranging from European integration to migration have raised eyebrows.
Hungary’s continued backsliding on rule of law standards culminated in the group’s suspension from the EPP ranks in 2019, which saw Fidesz being excluded from party meetings and stripped of speaking times, voting rights, and the right to propose candidates for posts. The then-established three-person panel to investigate the situation in Hungary and issue a recommendation on whether the party should be expelled, also failed to reach a final decision on the matter, only agreeing to extend the suspension in February.
The recurring issue highlights the political family’s continued struggles over how to address the growing ideological divisions between its moderate and right-wing factions and which way to orientate the party for the future. To a large party, this internal power struggle over the future direction is a direct result of the power vacuum within Germany’s CDU since Angela Merkel’s decision to step back from the party leadership in December 2018.
The EPP plans to make a final decision on Fidesz immediately “when health conditions allow this to happen.” It remains to be seen when, and if this time will effectively come. In any case, it will be dependent on the outcome of the CDU’s leadership elections in January.