At the moment, one cannot complain about the lack of attention being paid to Viktor Orbán’s brazen attempt to establish an undisguised dictatorship where he, as prime minister, can govern by decree without a sunset clause. It seems that this latest provocation moved politicians of the European Union and the United States to raise their voices a little louder than is their usual wont.
Within the European Union are three bodies — the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European People’s Party — in which politicians, parties, and party groupings are losing their patience with Viktor Orbán. What will come of their frustration is another matter. Earlier cries to put an end to the Hungarian prime minister’s systematic destruction of democracy at home and the havoc he creates in the European Union came to naught. We’ll see what happens this time, even as the pandemic is pushing everything else to the back burner.
Let’s start with the alleged attempt to expel Fidesz from EPP. Index reported yesterday that the chairmen of 13 EPP member parties “with deep roots in our respective countries’ center-right and pro-European traditions” expressed their deep concern over the political developments in Hungary. A facsimile of their letter to Donald Tusk can be seen on the Twitter account of Momentum MEP Anna Donáth. They called for “the expulsion of Fidesz from EPP in accordance with article 9 of the EPP statutes.” They also declared their “support of the European Commission” and called for “joint action by the Member States to address the situation forcefully.” Representatives of center-right parties from Belgium (2), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, and Sweden (2) signed the letter. Thus, the requisite number of parties from the requisite number of countries are ready to move the expulsion procedure forward.
This document might explain the exchange of letters between Antonio López-Istúriz White, secretary-general of EPP, and Viktor Orbán. The secretary-general apparently sympathizes with Viktor Orbán’s political views and is considered to be a supporter of the Hungarian prime minister within EPP. We don’t have his letter, but Katalin Novák, one of Orbán’s deputies, published Orbán’s reply on Twitter. Here it is.
Budapest 3rd April 2020
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
Our world is definitely upside down. We, prime ministers and party leaders all around the world are concentrating our energy on making effective and timely decisions in order to save the lives and protect the health and security of our citizens
I can hardly imagine any of us having time for fantasies about the intentions of other countries. This seems to me a costly luxury these days.
With all due respect, I have no time for this! I am ready to discuss any issue once this pandemic is over. Until then, I am devoting all my time exclusively to trying to save the lives of the Hungarian people, and preparing measures for the social and economic recovery of the country, within the scope of our Constitution.
I suggest we all do the same in our respective countries.
From the tone of the answer and on the basis of the ideological friendship between Antonio López-Istúriz White and Viktor Orbán, I assume that the EPP secretary-general had warned the Hungarian prime minister of dangers to him emanating from certain circles within EPP. If, however, his letter was supposed to be a friendly gesture and a warning, Viktor Orbán’s answer was a rebuff.
Viktor Orbán also fired off another letter to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, president of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, as The Financial Times ascertained. In it, Orbán accused Donald Tusk, president of EPP, of aligning himself “to the rhetoric of the European liberals and left, expressing unfounded concerns about the democratic commitment of some of our parties.” Since Fidesz is currently suspended from EPP, its “capabilities to stop President Tusk from risking the credibility of our political family” is limited. He thus asked Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer “to urge and persuade the President to stop sowing the seeds of division in our political family.” It looks as if Viktor Orbán is ready to retreat neither on his agenda to “reform” the far-too-liberal EPP nor on the issue of his “enabling law.”
Source: Hungary Today
Trouble is also brewing for Orbán in the European Parliament, where the Conference of Presidents discussed the Hungarian political situation. The Conference consists of the president of the parliament, the chairmen of the political groups, and a representative of the non-inscrits (independent members). At the moment, the Conference has 11 members, including the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, a member of the group of socialists and democrats. The majority of the chairmen expressed their concern over Hungary’s “enabling law” and asked Sassoli to forward a report on their disquiet to the European Commission. They requested that the procedure provided for in Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union be opened. If you recall, the Croatian government, which is currently handling the affairs of the Union and which is friendly to the Orbán regime, postponed the discussion of the Article 7 procedure initiated by the European Parliament, based on the Sargentini Report. This time, if the Commission agrees, another Article 7 process would be launched, by the European Commission itself.
Orbán’s position has apparently been greatly weakened by the German government’s change of heart on the question of Hungarian democracy. In the past, the German Christian Democrats always saved Orbán’s skin in the EPP and the EU at large. But now some observers are convinced that Germany played a key role in getting the foreign ministers of 13 countries to stand up against Orbán’s dictatorial tendencies. If the large German Christian Democratic group and Angela Merkel are no longer ready to support him, the chances of Fidesz remaining within the EPP are slim to nonexistent. But from his impertinent letters to important EPP politicians, it looks as if he no longer cares.
April 3, 2020