Monday 15 April 2013

Could Fidesz be expelled from the European People's Party?

Der Standard reported yesterday on a dinner of leading members of the EPP, including Joseph Daul and Commissioner Viviane Reding, to consider whether the ruling party in Hungary, Fidesz, should be expelled from the party:

"In der Europäischen Volkspartei (EVP) hat man die ungarische Mitgliedspartei Fidesz (Bund Junger Demokraten) Medienberichten zufolge zunehmend satt. Bei einem vertraulichen Abendessen im mondänen Klub der Festung Revelin bei Dubrovnik tauschten sich am vergangenen Donnerstag die Spitzen der EVP-Fraktion im Europaparlament, angeführt von Fraktionschef Joseph Daul, und die gleichfalls konservative EU-Justizkommissarin Viviane Reding über die jüngsten Verfassungsänderungen in Ungarn aus. Die Novelle festigt die Macht von Premier Viktor Orbán weiter auf Kosten von Justiz und Rechtsstaatlichkeit. Sollte Orbán innerhalb einer Woche keinen Rückzieher machen, werde man "Fidesz aus der EVP hinauskomplimentieren", soll bei dem Dinner vereinbart worden sein.

[The European People's Party (EPP) has become increasingly tired of the media reports of their Hungarian member party, Fidesz (the Alliance of young Democrats). At a confidential dinner in the Revelin in Dubrovnik last Thursday, leading members of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding discussed the recent constitutional changes in Hungary. These changes have further consolidated the power of the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the cost of the rule of law. The dinner concluded that if Orbán does not reverse course then Fidesz should be shown the door. (My Translation)]"

The EPP have rejected the story, but Der Standard's source for the story, a journalist from Új Magyar Szó (a Hungarian-language paper), says that Daul initiated the meeting. If the EPP is seriously thinking of expelling Fidesz, the party may try to join the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. That could be a boost to ECR numbers in the European Parliament, but it would be a controversial member to take on.

The pressure will be on Fidesz this week, with the constitutional situation up for debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday. Last week Barroso raised serious concerns over the latest change to the hungarian constitution, particularly because of interferences with the judiciary's powers, and it appears that the Commission is considering legal action:

"[Refering a Letter to Viktor Orbán:]

President Barroso indicates that, once the on-going legal analysis carried out by the Commission's services has been finalised, the Commission will have to take the necessary steps in order to start infringement procedures where relevant. "I strongly appeal to you and to your government to address these concerns and to tackle them in a determined and unambiguous way. This is without doubts in the best interest of Hungary and of the EU as a whole" – President Barroso says in the letter

The letter in particular refers to Commission concerns about the conformity with EU law of the new articles of the Hungarian Constitution on the clause on European Court of Justice judgements entailing payment obligations, the powers given to the President of the National Office for the judiciary to transfer cases and, subject to a more detailed analysis, the restrictions on the publication of political advertisements."

Concerns over Hungary's constitutional changes have been growing over the last few years. There was a blogging action over the new press laws and heavy criticism of the new constitution. Marco Dani, over at Verfassungsblog, highlights why these changes are important for the rest of us in an interesting piece on how the EU deals with these situations (and Article 7 TEU):

"[G]iven the interconnections between supranational and national decision-making, preserving national democratic processes from toxic elements is a way also of ensuring the democratic credentials of the EU institutions and political process. This is why Hungary matters not only for Hungarians but also for European citizens at large. And this is why, if European citizens are really affected by the authoritarian slide in one country, it is also up to them to react, especially when, as it is the case now, other institutional actors seem hesitant."

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