There’s been lot of chatter lately in international media about Fidesz’s “suspension” in the European People’s Party (EPP). While we have seen an abundance of different explanations and interpretations of the “conflict”, most of these relied heavily on misinformation and serious factual errors. Here are five key points you should know.
1. No, the EPP did not suspend Fidesz.Following the March 20 EPP meeting in Brussels, most international media outlets reported that Fidesz’ membership had been suspended by the EPP.
As we know, that’s not what happened. In fact, Fidesz decided to voluntarily freeze its membership. As the official resolution says: “The EPP Presidency and FIDESZ jointly agree that FIDESZ suspends its membership in the EPP until the report of the evaluation committee is ready”.
According to the “Austrian playbook” procedure, a committee composed of “three wise men” (similar to the measures taken in 2000 when the Austrian People’s Party went into coalition with the Freedom Party) will review matters concerning Fidesz and submit a report on their findings to the EPP leadership at some date after the elections.
“On the basis of that document,” Prime Minister Orbán said at a presser following the debate, “we can make decisions about EPP’s future and the relationship between Fidesz and the EPP.
2. Fidesz is one of the strongest parties in the EPP. And the strongest member in the conservative, Christian Democratic wing of the party.
Since 2010, Fidesz has won three consecutive national elections, each with a two-thirds supermajority and has prevailed in virtually all European Parliamentary elections since Hungary’s 2004 EU accession.
Fidesz-KDNP have 12 seats in today’s European Parliament. According to recent polls, the ruling parties have a good chance of picking up more mandates on top of the 12 in the May elections. If that scenario comes true, Fidesz-KDNP could become the fourth strongest party in the EPP. Contrast that to my third point…
3. The 13 parties that initiated this action and wanted to expel Fidesz together have only 31 MEPs. They represent a loud, pro-immigration minority. These 13 parties make up 27 percent of all 49 active parties in the EPP, but with only 31 votes in parliament, they have only 14 percent of the group’s total.
Moreover, those 13 parties are, without an exception, all pro-immigration. They make no secret about their intention to legalize migration instead of stopping it. Through Fidesz’s expulsion, they would have changed the character of the EPP. They failed. Unity prevailed.
At least for now.
4. The real debate is about much more than Fidesz’s EPP membership. The real debate within the EPP reaches far beyond Fidesz and its “compliance” with a set of “fundamental values”.
Today’s EPP is no longer the party of Helmut Kohl. It’s no longer the strong party that it used to be when Fidesz accepted the invitation of the late, German chancellor. The EPP, as PM Orbán said in a radio interview last Sunday, has succumbed to “an unfortunate fate.” It has lost its sovereignty and allows itself to be unduly influenced by the left.
In the coming months, certain interests within the EPP will continue to set the stage for a grand, pro-immigration coalition with the European Greens, Liberals and Socialists, which would inevitably push the European People’s Party further to the left.
According to Prime Minister Orbán, they have “essentially shaken hands on the deal” behind the curtain, and they know that Fidesz would never support something like this. To counter the deal, EPP should regain its sovereignty instead of slowly becoming a “semi-left-wing party”.
5. Prime Minister Orbán will not compromise on essential things like preserving Christian culture and stopping migration. The future of Fidesz’s relationship with the EPP depends very much on the whether the EPP continues to lurch leftward. In his radio interview on Sunday, the prime minister said he would not compromise on these essential values. And he made it clear that when Fidesz decides after the May elections whether it will continue in the People’s Party, it will depend on whether the EPP will be anti-immigration, whether it will stand up for the protection of Christian values, or whether it will continue to move to the left. We’ll have to wait and see.
This blog post originally appeared on Zoltán Kovács’s abouthungary.hu blog.