Farewell EPP: will Orbán find new partners?

Following the withdrawal of his party Fidesz from the EPP group, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is looking for new allies in the European Parliament. He is scheduled to meet today with the leader of Italy's Lega party Matteo Salvini and Poland's head of government Mateusz Morawiecki (PiS) to discuss the possibility of forming an alliance. Europe's press sees little chance of the right-wing parties joining forces for the time being.

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Népszava (HU) /

Little scope for an alliance

Népszava considers it very unlikely that the formation of a large right-wing bloc in the European Parliament will succeed:

“Not even Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša and his party, who sympathise with Orbán, want to join. They, too, want to be close to the warming fire, which would not be possible outside the EPP. Far-right politician Marine Le Pen regards some of the Hungarian head of government's steps as indefensible, and even the moderate wing of Germany's AfD is not enthusiastic about a closer relationship with Fidesz. During the Strache scandal, the Austrian FPÖ experienced first-hand the difficult consequences of copying Orbán's policies. ... Some kind of alliance is conceivable [between Orbán and Salvini], but Lega, as a member of the Italian government, has to weigh its every step very carefully at the moment.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Not natural allies

A few things must be clarified for the nationalist alliance to succeed, writes Der Standard:

“The scales that weigh the balance of power in the European Parliament have been set in motion - and without any elections. ... The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the populists and extremists of the Identity and Democracy (ID) group could merge to form the second largest bloc in the parliament - with Fidesz as the unifying element. ... However it won't be easy for those involved to bridge the natural fault lines in international nationalism. There is also disagreement about relations with Moscow, which is often said to have close ties to Europe's far-right parties. ... For the Polish PiS, which has a deep aversion to Moscow, that alone should be a no-go.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

The perfect new enemy

Orbán will now be able to direct his propaganda against the EU with no holds barred, political scientist Dmitro Tuchanskii writes in Ukrayinska Pravda:

“Orbán can finally give free rein to the anti-Brussels rhetoric. Not as an end in itself, but as an instrument. ... In previous elections he always united society against something: the left, migrants, Soros. This scenario has proven itself every time. To repeat it, Orbán urgently needs to find new 'enemies' and declare a national battle against them. In the 2022 elections, 'the war for the sovereignty of Hungary against the Brussels establishment' will clearly play this role.”

Contributors (RO) /

Realignment in the EU Parliament

Orbán is seeking to expand the group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), contributors.ro believes:

“Orbán is encouraging Slovenian Prime Minister Janša, leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), to renounce its EPP membership and join the ECR group, which is already in dialogue with the SDS. ... He is also trying to persuade the [Italian] Lega to join the group. Orbán, who leads a party that isn't even a member, is now the group's most active proponent! ... The ECR currently has 62 members. If all three parties were added to its ranks, it would have 106, making it the third largest group in the EU Parliament.”

Krónika (RO) /

Fidesz could become a conservative trendsetter

Krónika also has high hopes for Fidesz:

“European journalists seem to find it far more interesting to speculate about the future manoeuvres of Viktor Orbán's party in the European Parliament than to think about the future of the EPP, which now lacks any contours. ... Brexit meant the EU had to say goodbye to the British Conservatives, who played a decisive role in Brussels until Cameron's misguided decision. With strong opinions and courageous policies they heavily influenced European thinking ... The gap they left on the EU's political stage could be filled by a Fidesz-led formation.”

Népszava (HU) /

Orbán at an impasse

Fidesz stands little chance of creating a new alliance worthy of the name in the European Parliament, Népszava believes:

“From Fidesz's point of view, maintaining a good relationship with the CDU isn't just sensible, it's essential if it wants to exert influence. However, for the CDU, anything that's to the right of it politically is taboo. ... Orbán seems to have two options: one is to join forces with political forces which from Berlin's point of view do not cross the red line - in this case, however, he'll have to forego a number of potential allies. ... The other option is to form a new European group - but even with the two key partners, Matteo Salvini's Lega and Jarosław Kaczyński's PiS, it would still be very small.”

Politiken (DK) /

The people of this world want democracy

The fight against illiberal forces must continue unabated, Politiken warns:

“The first step is to acknowledge the problem and its scope. To stand up and fight for freedom and democracy. Just as the EPP group did by showing Viktor Orbán and his party friends the door. This is exactly how the fight for freedom can be won. ... Because the desire for democracy is as alive as ever among the peoples of the world, and so is the will to fight. Look at the demonstrators in Belarus, look at the activists in Hong Kong, look at Alexei Navalny. The fight has not been lost. But it must be fought now.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

More trouble on the way

The pro-government daily Magyar Hírlap expects further expulsions:

“This week's plenary session of the European Parliament on Wednesday will not only deal with Poland and Hungary, but also with Slovenia's 'attacks on the media'. The goal is clear: Prime Minister Janez Janša's Slovenian Democratic Party is also to be expelled from the European People's Party. This would mean that the group would lose two more MEPs, and the EPP one more ruling party - which it cannot afford. The People's Party used to be in government in most member states, whereas today it is in opposition in two out of three countries.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Farewell without tears

The EPP can heave a deep sigh of relief, Dnevnik writes:

“Fidesz's withdrawal from the largest group in the European Parliament comes as a relief for the group, which in recent years has had to deal with one escapade after another by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. This went beyond verbal attacks against Jean-Claude Juncker, or clashes between Fidesz MEP Tamás Deutsch and the leader of the parliamentary group Manfred Weber, who according to Deutsch used 'Gestapo' methods. ... Verbal attacks mixed with occasional Euroscepticism and the search for a scapegoat in Brussels were one of the methods with which Fidesz maintained and consolidated its power in Hungary. Orbán has always pointed to external enemies.”

Azonnali (HU) /

A group with no values

This episode with Fidesz has clearly demonstrated the EPP's lack of principles, Azonnali believes:

“Everything fits into the EPP's value system. If Viktor Orbán and his party hadn't left the EPP now, the value systems of Europe's conservatives and Christian Democrats would have continued to expand for years, like outer space [to accomodate Fidesz]. The EPP exposes exactly what the EU displays on a large scale: an inability to make decisions, a lack of principles, catchy slogans and chaos. ... The fact that Fidesz was able to make it into the EPP and remain a member for so long is mainly thanks to the German CDU and the Bavarian CSU, or put simply: German industry.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Hopefully the ballot box will decide

Dagens Nyheter also takes a critical view of how the EU and especially Germany are dealing with the authoritarian regimes in Hungary and Poland:

“The EU comes across as indecisive. Large countries like Germany seem only moderately interested in whether the bloc's credibility is being undermined by anti-liberal rulers. This must come to an end. Authoritarian systems like Orbán's and Kaczyński's have no place in the EU. A large majority of Hungarians and Poles want to stay in the EU. Let them show it at the ballot box. As long as their votes still mean something.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Soon where it belongs

Jutarnji list thinks it knows where Fidesz will find a new political home:

“This was clear from the reactions of the ECR, the group of the European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament. The group isn't on the far right but it is eurosceptic. It was created when former British Prime Minister David Cameron decided to leave the EPP. ... The ECR condemned the EPP's decision and expressed solidarity with Fidesz, describing the move as political punishment for disobedience. ... If Fidesz joins the ECR, which, judging by Orbán's behavior, seems almost certain, the group will become the fourth largest in terms of the number of MEPs, relegating the Greens to fifth place.”