Irish Times view on Viktor Orbán and the European People’s Party: a cuckoo in the nest

Fine Gael joins the ranks of at least 13 parties saying Orbán needs to be expelled

Hungary, under Viktor Orbán’s leadership, is currently facing disciplinary proceedings in the EU Council of Ministers for breaches of the rule of law. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Hungary, under Viktor Orbán’s leadership, is currently facing disciplinary proceedings in the EU Council of Ministers for breaches of the rule of law. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

 

There are broad churches, and then there is the European People’s Party (EPP). The European centre-right alliance of 80 parties that dominates the European Parliament embraces political persuasions ranging from the social liberalism of Sweden’s Moderate Party to the hard-right populist anti-immigrant rhetoric of Hungary’s Fidesz led by Viktor Orbán. Not to mention Italy’s Forza Italia, led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, currently campaigning in Italian regional elections with the far right.

Fine Gael finds itself in the middle of that political spectrum, close to traditional Christian Democrat parties like Germany’s CDU, but has joined the ranks of at least 13 parties now saying that enough is enough: the church is too broad; Orbán needs to be expelled from the party ahead of the European elections in May.

How can the EPP brand itself as a moderate pro-European party of the centre, the argument goes, when it includes a virulently Islamophobic partner apparently opposed to the whole project?

Hungary, under Orbán’s leadership, is currently facing article 7 disciplinary proceedings in the EU Council of Ministers for breaches of the rule of law, and Fidesz has recently launched a blistering billboard campaign against the commission and its president Jean-Claude Juncker, also a member of the EPP. It alleges that the commission is conspiring with George Soros to foist migrants on reluctant member states. One step too far, his critics say, and even the conservative Bavarian CSU party now seems inclined to support the suspension, if not expulsion, of Fidesz.

Orbán has given every indication that he would be delighted to be expelled by the EPP, a feather in his cap that would serve in his supporters’ eyes to demonstrate his case that Europe’s elites are out to get him. And he has spoken openly of campaigning in the elections with Italy’s deputy PM Matteo Salvini, Berlusconi’s ally, for an anti-immigrant majority in the European Parliament.

Unable to control its wayward member, the EPP has little choice but to kick this cuckoo out of its nest.

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