Fidesz leaving EPP will have far-reaching impact
As you probably know by now, the Hungarian Fidesz delegation decided on 3 March to leave the EPP Group.
The move comes after years of tensions between the party of the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban and both the EPP Party [where Fidesz’s status had been suspended] and the Group [where MEPs participated, but were under constant pressure]. The trigger for this move was a decision of the Group to amend internal rules which would allow for a vote to suspend the rights of Fidesz MEPs and deprive them of rapporteurships, speaking slots and institutional roles moving forward.
The spat originally arose from the fact that the membership of a governing party of a country which had been under the Article 7 procedure by the EU for infringement of the rule of law and democratic principles eroded both the image and internal cohesion of the EPP family. It is worth noting that the Fidesz-led delegation of 13 was among the largest in EPP, that there are 2 other MEPs from a Hungarian minority party in the Romanian delegation, and that some member parties had openly supported Orban in EPP fora.
As an immediate reaction to Fidesz’s departure, the ECR Group expressed solidarity with the Hungarians, rekindling speculation about a potential relocation of Fidesz MEPs [and potentially others] to the Conservatives and Reformists. The ECR has been completely dominated by their Polish delegation, and in recent years ties between Warsaw and Budapest have become tighter than between any other two capitals, making for a likely ideologically compatible alliance.
A number of questions emerge from yesterday’s decision:
Will some of the Hungarian MEPs break away from the national delegation and attempt to rejoin the EPP on personal merits, despite it likely signifying political suicide nationally? Special consideration could be made for MEP Andor Deli, who comes from Serbia and whose party (SVM) is a full member of EPP Party, but he was elected on the Fidesz list. Similar consideration could be made for MEP György Hölvényi who comes from Fidesz’s long-time coalition partner KDN, and who is poised to remain an EPP member [maintaining EPP representation in all 27 Member states].
Will anyone else follow the footsteps of Fidesz – with the primary concern being the Hungarian minority party from Romania (UDMR), which is now a part of the government led by PNL (EPP)? It is most likely that none of the other parties would follow Fidesz in leaving the EPP.
Will Fidesz move to the ECR Group, which, with an additional 12 MEPs [NOVE assesses Hölvényi staying in EPP and Deli leaving with Fidesz], could bring the right-wing group within 1 from their far-right counterparts from the ID whom currently comprise 75 MEPs?
Having another large delegation of a governing party with the Prime Minister could disrupt the balance of forces in the Group, undermining the role the Italian delegation plays therein, potentially costing the Brothers of Italy the post of the ECR Co-Chair and some other roles within the Group.
This could potentially make the ECR a more enticing prospect for other parties looking for an enhanced institutional role.
Italian Lega from the ID group for instance, which has been governing on and off in Italy, but having their role undermined at the EU level due to their political engagement with the far-right. Granted, the unresolved issues between Italian right-wing parties could prevent such a move.
How will the EPP Party address this, as Fidesz has been suspended, but still counts Orban as one of their heads of state and government [though arguably not terribly compliant with the general party lines lately]?
There are some more immediate implications to be elaborated, too:
Following the Fidesz departure, the EPP would drop to 175 MEPs, further reducing the impact of a Group that has been weakened after the last EP election.
This would have ramifications on the next distribution of institutional roles [Bureaus of the Committees, for instance] in early 2022, as those are based on the D’Hondt system [based in turn on the number of MEPs], as well as impacting on rapporteurships and speaking slot allocation.
The EPP’s footprint in key committees will also suffer from the departure of Hungarian MEPs; and Fidesz’ potential partnership with ECR could strengthen the latter.
As a consequence, EPP would likely feel under more pressure to cooperate with the “Progressive Coalition” of Renew, S&D, Greens and the Left to retain its relevance. By analogy, it is possible the centre-right would become even more inert in pushing for their traditional policies.
With their 29 MEPs, the dominant German CDU/CSU delegation will play an even bigger and more decisive role in the EPP Group; and their strategic decision on the Chancellor candidate next month, and the coalition partner following the general election in the fall, is likely to fundamentally shape the policies of the EPP Group.
Polish  and Romanian  delegations will also grow in importance and influence with the EPP.
For the time being, Fidesz will remain NI (non-attached), making them the only NI delegation to include a Prime Minister. Speaking of which, as it takes a physical Political Assembly for the EPP Party to expel Fidesz from its membership, Orban could remain listed as EPP head of government; though it is hard to imagine him playing any role in the Centre-Right family moving forward.