Centre-right MEPs have voted to immediately suspend Fidesz, the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, from the European People’s Party (EPP).
The final straw for many in the parliamentary grouping was an anti-immigration poster campaign that featured unflattering photos of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and billionaire philanthropist George Soros, implying that that the two men were conspiring to impose mass immigration on Europe.
While in government, Orban has also raised the ire of his Brussels colleagues, and the liberal establishment in general, by restricting freedom of expression and education in Hungary and establishing a new court system that critics say is designed to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
This suspension means that Fidesz will no longer be able to participate in EPP meetings, will no longer have the right to vote and will not be able to nominate candidates for positions within the party, said Joseph Daul, EPP Group Chairman.
A panel of three ‘wise-men’ will also be established to evaluate the party’s efforts to bring itself back in line with EPP values. Among the criteria by which Fidesz will be judged will be on whether the Central European University will be allowed to continue operating in Budapest.
The university was ordered to close on the grounds that it was funded from abroad; however, the move was widely criticised as an attack on the University’s founder, George Soros, whom Orban accuses of wanting to flood Hungary and Europe with Muslim immigrants. The panel’s findings will determine if and when Fidesz’s suspension will come to an end.
Before the vote, Fidesz officials had threatened to pull out of the EPP if it was suspended.
But afterwards Orban called the decision a “compromise” and greeted it as a “a good decision”.
“It was proposed to give up our rights while waiting for the committee to pronounce its resolutions,” said the Prime Minister.
Prior to the ballot, which was passed by 190 votes to 3, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission and one of the strongest critics of Orban’s illiberal tendencies called for Fidesz to be expelled.
Criticising the EPP for opting for suspension instead, Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the opposition Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) called the decision a “a political trick & fudge that shames Europe” adding that the “EPP have lost the moral authority to lead Europe.”