„I want to inform you, Mr. Chairman, that if the provisions accepted at the meeting of the Presidency and of Head of national delegations on February 26 are put to a vote and adopted, Fidesz will leave the Group” – wrote Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, President of Fidesz, on Sunday to Manfred Weber, Leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament. As our paper has reported previously, the EPP intends to dramatically change the rules of procedure in order to be able to suspend the Fidesz delegation.
According to the originally proposed amendment, they would enable the suspension and exclusion of entire delegations (which has so far only been possible for individual MEPs), and in the future, just a simple majority of MEP votes would be enough. Furthermore, umbrella party membership and European Parliamentary representation would be automatically connected: if the former suspends or expels a party member, this decision would also apply to the European Parliamentary representation.
The latter clearly effects Fidesz: the Hungarian party has been suspended from the EPP umbrella party since 2019, yet it continues to be a full member of the EP faction.
A new rule made for Fidesz
At the EPP meeting mentioned in PM Orbán’s letter, our sources revealed that they do not have two-thirds support for the suspension and expulsion of entire delegations nor for the simple majority rule; thus, the People’s Party will not be able to implement those amendments. The third element automatic mirror rule however,
will be put to a vote on Wednesday in such a way that voting on the suspension of Fidesz will basically become inevitable.
According to the amendment, in the case of parties suspended from the umbrella party, it would be obligatory for MEPs to vote on their EP faction membership. “Not only were these rules were made for a very specific situation, but also with a retroactive effect” explained our EP source. He described the situation: the EPP Group’s Rules of Procedure was a short document of barely twenty pages that the MEPs knew very little of. Presently however, the rules which were “invisible” until now, are being hastily overstated in legally ambiguous ways.
The leading member party for representation proportional to population
PM Viktor Orbán referred to these questionable legal practices in his public letter. He states that, according to the Hungarian understanding, “Our definition of rule of law cannot accept retroactive rules and sanctions, which the new provisions clearly aim to introduce… As you did not have the sufficient votes punish us, you are now trying to change the rules and apply them to ongoing procedures” – wrote the Fidesz President. (Fidesz’ EPP membership was suspended in 2019, well before Wednesday’s potential amendments. Thus the Group leadership would vote on a two-year-old, ongoing case regarding Fidesz’ suspension.)
Another argument previously mentioned by our paper:
The Hungarian voters delegated the Fidesz MEPs to the European Parliament to represent their interests at the EU level.
The rights and obligations of the thirteen politicians in question (twelve Fidesz MEPs and one KDNP-Christian Democratic People’s Party MEP) don’t stem from the EPP, but rather the electorate. “As president of Fidesz, it is my obligation to guarantee the full representation of our voters” – wrote Viktor Orbán in his letter. He added: “Fidesz MEPs were elected with the support of more than 1.8 million Hungarian votes and more than 52% of the vote share. Proportionally, they represent the strongest delegation of the EPP Group.”
Doubtful we’ll get an answer now
Our sources state that those in the EPP are aware of the legal ambiguities. At the end of the week, the Brussels-based newspaper, Politico.eu reported: “MEP [and law professor] László Trócsányi threatened to take the EPP group to… the EU’s Court of Justice.” Although the paper cites a “threat” of litigation, according to our sources from the EPP
first, the German Christian EU parties raised doubts that the rule of procedure amendment would stand in the EU Court.
(Our source said that László Trócsányi confirmed this opinion as a legal authority and hence the Politico.eu article.)
It’s worth noting that last December, the Hungarian Prime Minister, as president of Fidesz, proposed that the Hungarian MEPs maintain a sort of looser cooperation with the EPP Group until the umbrella party decision is made.
The letter addressed to Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, was never answered.
Yet the idea did have support – said an EPP source who continued on to say that it’s doubtful whether the Hungarians will be deemed worthy of an answer. He also believes its quite striking that at the end of last year, the hurried preparation against Fidesz began, with complete disregard for the coronavirus pandemic. Actually, until then, there was a unanimous opinion among the faction that they should wait for the debate between the Hungarian ruling party and the umbrella party to conclude.