Hungary ruling party to leave European centre-right group: media

Budapest, March 3 (AFP/APP): Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party will leave the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) grouping in the European Parliament Wednesday, according to Hungarian media reports.

“Fidesz is leaving the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament today,” the pro-Orban news-site wrote Wednesday.

According to Origo, the party will announce the move later Wednesday. Fidesz did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation by AFP. The EPP, which brings together Europe’s main centre-right parties, is the biggest single voting bloc in the European Parliament and the party of both Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The move would follow a letter sent by Orban to EPP group leader Manfred Weber Sunday threatening to leave the group if a vote on a change in its internal rules about suspension scheduled for Wednesday is passed. The proposed rule changes that would allow the group to penalise an entire member party, rather than just a single MEP, were “tailor-made to punish Fidesz,” Orban wrote.

“The message is clear and duly noted. If Fidesz is not welcome, we do not feel compelled to stay in the group,” he said. The departure of the Fidesz group would end years of rancour between EPP parties over whether to kick out Orban’s party or keep its MEPs on board in the centre-right grouping to avoid them siding with eurosceptic populists.

The EPP already sanctioned Fidesz in 2019 because of a government poster campaign accusing former European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and liberal US billionaire George Soros — Orban’s bete noire — of plotting to flood Europe with migrants. The EPP sent a delegation to produce an internal report assessing the future membership of Fidesz, a move resented by Orban who said the party would make its own decision on its future.

The vote on changing the suspension rules comes after the EPP sanctioned Fidesz European Parliament group leader Tamas Deutsch for a comment comparing remarks by Weber to the slogans of the Gestapo and Hungary’s communist-era secret police.

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