EU conservatives warn Hungary’s Viktor Orban over illiberal trajectory

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Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party have tested the patience of some lawmakers in the conservative European People’s Party. But the two men vying to lead the bloc don’t agree on how to deal with their Hungarian colleagues.

European conservatives have warned Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party to respect democracy and the rule of law.

The “emergency” resolution at a meeting of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) on Wednesday did not name Orban or Fidesz explicitly.

But senior EPP officials admitted ahead of the meeting in Helsinki that the resolution was directed at Hungary. Fidesz representatives, who also signed the resolution, dismissed that claim.

Hungary’s illiberal slide

Orban has alarmed some EPP lawmakers by taking a hard-line anti-immigration stance, attacking the media and advocating for an “illiberal democracy.”

Right-wing governments in other Eastern European countries, including Poland, have followed Hungary’s lead, further stoking fears about creeping authoritarianism in Europe.

In September, European lawmakers voted to start a probe into whether Hungary is failing to uphold democratic values. The process could lead to sanctions against the Hungarian government.

 

EPP split on Orban

Fidesz’s status in the EPP has split opinion within the grouping. The two men gunning to become the EPP’s choice as lead candidate for the EU elections in May also disagree on the issue.

Manfred Weber from the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) supports keeping Orban and Fidesz within the EPP. He is the favorite to win the nomination and has received the backing of the Hungarian prime minister.

But Alexander Stubb, a former Finnish prime minister, had called for throwing Fidesz out of the grouping if its representatives did not sign the emergency resolution.

EPP delegates from several conservative parties across the European Union are set to choose the candidate on Thursday. The grouping is the largest in the European Parliament and includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU).

Europe’s ‘dark forces’

Despite Wednesday’s resolution, the leader of the socialist grouping in the European Parliament slammed his EPP opponents for failing to take a stand against Orban and his party.

“Conservatives are clearly no longer reliable partners when it comes to fighting the dark forces that are trying to undermine rule of law, democracy and solidarity in Europe,” said Udo Bullmann.

amp/cmk (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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