Fidesz really seem to be in over their heads in European politics: After one of their MEPs found themselves in a sex scandal that made headlines all over Europe, another, Tamás Deutsch, is facing exclusion from the parliamentary group of the European People's Party following his comments comparing the group's leader, Manfred Weber, to the Gestapo.
Thirty members of the European People's Party have initiated the exclusion of Fidesz MEP Tamás Deutsch from the political family's group in the European Parliament on Tuesday. In their letter drafted by Austrian MEP Othmar Karas, they wrote:
"With growing dismay and impatience, we witness the increasing radicalization and verbal abuses of certain Fidesz MEPs of our group."
What they are referencing is that in an interview with pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet, when the reporter asked him about EPP Group leader Manfred Weber's comments about the rule of law mechanism, namely that Hungary has nothing to fear as long as the judiciary is independent and the press is free. Deutsch said:
"The Gestapo and the ÁVH (Hungarian secret police of the communist era) were saying the same thing: You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. But we remember very well that in actual fact, anybody can be punished anytime based on arbitrary political decisions.
It is scary in itself that these partisan procedures employing double standards under the guise of the rule of law have become the everyday practice in the European Union. Now they want to top that off with a regime that allows for punishing certain countries based on arbitrary political decisions. Ever since 2015, they have been trying to accomplish the withdrawal of funds from countries that say no to immigration. Now they have found a new tool for blackmail."
The exclusion request states that Deutsch's comments are "shocking and shameful," comparing the European Union to nazi or communist oppression is "a blatant and intolerable distortion of historic facts and an insult and vilification of the millions of victims of nazism and communism." The letter continues:
"The difference between Europe's darkest days of communism and our European Union of today is precisely this: the rule of law, independent judges, freedom of speech and media and protection from arbitrariness and cronyism. We all agree that the assessment, if something is in line with the rule of law or not, must not be made by politicians or journalists, but by independent judges. (...)
The EPP must not give in on the Rule of Law.
Tamás Deutsch must no longer undermine the EPP Group's credibility."
The procedure to exclude Tamás Deutsch from the EPP will begin on 9 December with a debate on the incident.
In response to the letter, Tamás Deutsch told ATV on Thursday that this he considers this aggressive initiative to be "domestic violence in the political family." Donald Tusk, the Chairman of the EPP who criticised Fidesz on several occasions since his election, tweeted the following after Deutsch's comments and József Szájer's sex scandal:
The rules of the European Parliament make it impossible to exclude complete national delegations from an EP political group, however, they can expel individual members. In the EPP itself, Fidesz has been suspended since March 2019, but Fidesz could continue work in the political family's parliamentary group undisturbed. In the meantime though, the stark debate around Orbán's party continued, since the Hungarian government's handling of the coronavirus, or at least its main alleged directions, were widely criticised.
During the summer, for instance, Donald Tusk and other members of the EPP condemned the Hungarian Coronavirus Act because they believed it was "an unquestionable affront to liberal democracy and European values," as the Government declared a special legal order with no sunset clause, practically allowing the government to rule by decree due to lax limitations on emergency powers. The second time around, in November, the act on emergency powers did include a ninety-day expiration period, which was a major gripe on the EPP's part as well. During the summer, Orbán wrote a letter to Tusk stating that he is all caught up in saving Hungarian lives and help the country out of an economic and social crisis, adding that they should have talks about Fidesz's EPP membership "once the pandemic is over."
Not long after Orbán's letter, Tusk announced that the EPP's 28 September assembly would not vote on Fidesz's membership, as it was held online, therefore the secrecy of the vote would have been compromised. Despite that, Fidesz fought its way back onto the EPP's agenda by announcing to block the EU's seven-year budget and the COVID-19 recovery package over the rule of law conditionality of EU funds. The fate of more than 1800 billion euros now hangs in the balance, nearly half of which is the coronavirus recovery package meant to alleviate the economic damages of the pandemic. Late November, the press officer of the European People's Party told Telex in an interview that they are adamant on changing the mind of Viktor Orbán.