Orbán’s Fidesz seeks for a group in the next European Parliament

European Union

In March 2021, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party left the centre-right bloc in the European Parliament to avoid a humiliating vote for its suspension or exclusion from the EPP Group. Since then, its MEPs have not participated in any group paying the severe consequences such a situation implies. However, Fidesz cannot remain alone in the Parliament forever. Thus, Orbán is seeking a Group ready to host his party to end its isolation in the Parliament.

Nevertheless, it is not an easy affair since Orbán can bring more problems to his new partners than benefits.

The government in Budapest adopted and implemented politics associated with the far-right concerning immigration, judiciary independence, media and academic freedom. Orbán practically is an ally of Vladimir Putin and refuses to adopt the EU sanctions against Russia. He and his party use rhetoric marked by Islamophobia, homophobic comments, and racism against the Roma population. Moreover, he is now preparing a law for the associations and political parties – an imitation of the one adopted in Russia – aiming to restrict further the movements of the democratic opposition and the civil society.

He proved to be an irresponsible politician in matters of foreign politics, including the relations with Russia and Belarus and the conflict with the EU. He turned a European country into an enemy of the EU.

Consequently, after the European elections, Orbán has two options: Join the ECR Group or the Identity and Democracy. Practically, he has to choose between Giorgia Meloni and Marine Le Pen

However, the ID Group is in crisis after the secret meeting between its German member AfD with neo-Nazis to discuss a mass expulsion of “non-sufficiently assimilated” German citizens, the infamous “Re-emigration” project.

The issue encourages reflection.

What Orbán has to offer 

Orbán is the prime minister of an EU member state, which is an asset.  

As he introduced an authoritarian electoral law – and controls the media – Fidesz will have many MEPs after the June 2024 European elections. However, Hungary is not a big country, and the number of Fidesz MEPs will not dramatically change the political weight of any group.

Hungary has 21 seats in the European Parliament. Fidesz’s delegation consists of 12 MEPs.

According to the polls, Fidesz enjoys the support of 48% of the voters, less than the 52,56% he obtained at the 2019 European elections.

But, the other parties’ performance is not as good as in the previous elections. For example, polls give the Democratic Coalition (DK) 14% instead of 16,05% in 2019, the Momentum Movement 7% instead of 9,93%, and the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) 4% instead of 6.61%. The same is true of the far-right Jobbik, which obtained 6.34 in 2019 and now, according to the polls, lies at 3%.

In contrast, the polls give the far-right Our Home Movement (MZ) 9% and the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) 8%. Both contest the European elections for the first time.     

That means the Fidesz will probably have more MEPs in the next Parliament.

These “positive” points Orbán can offer to an eventual partner group in the next European Parliament.

Benefits or damages for the ECR?        

The Hungarian prime minister has said his party is in talks to join the ECR after the June elections. 

However, Orbán would also bring risks for Meloni, whose stature as a European leader alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has grown at past EU summits.

The ECR Group has a clear position of support for Ukraine and is in line with the other big political families, the EPP, SDs, Reniew and the Greens, in promoting sanctions against Russia.

Orbán maintains close ties to Moscow and acts as Putin’s man inside the EU. He opposes the European financing package for Kyiv and considers the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia a “conflict between Slavs”.

If the ECR Group accepts Fidesz, saving him from isolation will put its traditional position towards Ukraine and Russia at risk. It is notable that representatives of the ECR with EPP and S&Ds first issued a joint statement concerning the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

As Orbán became a pariah among the rest of the European leaders, Meloni will probably have to support him. 

In addition, although Meloni adopted harsh policies against immigrants or the LGBTI people, she does not envisage implementing an authoritarian regime as Orbán did in his country.

Also, Orbán’s prime minister status will de facto elevate him to the level of ECR Group’s co-leader.   

The European Council will probably continue to press on Orbán. In the coming period, he will start to face several problems on the domestic (first of all, the economy) and international levels. Will Meloni back him, putting her excellent cooperation with the rest of the leaders at risk, or will she side with the majority? In the second case, which kind of a partnership will this be?

Finally, accepting Fidesz in the ECR Group involves all its members. Several of them express their opposition to such a partnership.

Meloni seems favourable but in some conditions. 

“There is the possibility that Fidesz will converge towards the ECR group if it supports our Euro-Atlantic stance,” Carlo Fidanza, an MEP of the Brothers of Italy party, told Reuters two weeks ago.

Others, such as Latvian MEP Roberts Zīle, a top figure in the ECR and a Parliament vice-president, say they could agree to accept Fidesz if Orbán changes their position on Russia’s Ukraine aggression. 

Former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the ultra-conservative Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS), another big ECR party, has a positive view about partnering with Orbán. 

But, four members, the Czech Civic Democrats (ODS), the Sweden Democrats, the Flemish Nationalist NVA and Romania’s rising far-right party AUR, threaten to quit the ECR group if Orbán joins it. 

Sweden Democrats are upset that Hungary’s Parliament has not approved Sweden’s accession to NATO. The Romanians remember when Orbán caused a diplomatic brawl with neighbouring countries in November 2022, talking of a ‘Greater Hungary, which included territories of the EU member states Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Ukraine.

Is Identity and Democracy Group an option? 

Orbán could fit better with the gloomy Group of the hardcore far-right, Identity and Democracy, that gathers the Rassemblement National of Le Pen, the Italian League of Matteo Salvini, the German AfD, the Dutch Geert Wilders and the Austrian FPÖ, among others. 

The parties of the ID Group are ideologically closer to Fidesz. 

However, they favour their country’s exit from the EU. Orbán, although anti-EU, doesn’t want Hungary out because he relies on the EU taxpayer’s money.

In addition, such a partnership will weaken Fidesz’s ability to influence EU decisions.

Orbán understands that if he enters the ID group, then he will be completely isolated and an easy target for everyone. The markets will be cautious, if not concerned, with the new friendships of Orbán further harming the economy of Hungary.

The European Council will be hostile. The same is true of the European Commission and the Parliament.

However, the ID Group entered a crisis last January, as Marine Le Pen threatened to abandon it. If the Group does not resolve this severe crisis, then other options will be opened in the far-right and nationalist environment in Europe after the European elections.

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