Despite what he described as “constructive” dialogue with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in their meeting Tuesday, Manfred Weber, the leader of the European Peopleʼs Party (EPP) in the European Parliament, indicated afterwards that much remains to be done if Fideszʼs expulsion from the EPP is to be avoided.
The head of the EU’s largest political group said the EPP membership of Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party remains under threat after direct talks in Budapest failed to resolve disputed issues, according to various reports in the local and international media.
As reported yesterday, Weber issued a three-point ultimatum to Orbán ahead of their Tuesday talks, requiring the Hungarian government to publicly apologize for its recent political campaign ads, implying a conspiracy to boost immigration between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (whose party is also an EPP member) and Hungarian-born investor George Soros; to halt its anti-Brussels campaigns altogether; and to ensure the continued operation of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest.
In an interview on the Heute Journal news magazine of German public service television channel ZDF, cited by independent Hungarian news site merce.hu, Weber reiterated that “patience has run out” within the EPP towards Orbán and Fidesz following the Soros-Juncker ad campaign. He also stressed that basic rights, such as the freedom of academia and education, are “not subject to bargaining,” and that Orbán must observe such rights or find himself and his party outside the EPP.
The EPP is due to meet on March 20 for a vote on the possible suspension or expulsion of Fidesz, after 13 member parties from nine countries requested action. EPP member parties were widely reported to be infuriated not only by the anti-Juncker, anti-Brussels campaign, but also by Orbánʼs deriding of the EPP parties that called for the vote as “useful idiots” for the European left.
“Today in my talks with Prime Minister Orbán we had a constructive atmosphere, but the problems are not yet solved,” Weber told reporters after meeting Orbán on Tuesday, according to a report in the Financial Times. “We as [the] EPP have clear fundamental values and these values are not negotiable for us, so they have to be respected from all our EPP member parties.”
Regarding CEU, the FT cited Weber as saying he had told Orbán that the Technical University of Munich and BMW, the German carmaker, have offered to endow some professorships at CEU if it would encourage a conciliatory stance from the Hungarian side.