Fidesz suspended its membership to the European People's Party

Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary for International Communications and Relations talks about the unity of the EPP and the European Parliamentary elections, while Pál Csáky, MEP of the Party of the Hungarian Community of Slovakia in the European People’s Party talks about Zuzana Čaputová and the Slovak presidential election.


I wish you a good evening. Welcome. Following the former Austrian example, Fidesz suspended its membership to the European People's Party effect immediately. Subsequently, the EPP voted for the decision of the Hungarian government party, but did not expel Fidesz. My guest in the studio is Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary for International Communications and Relations. Good evening.

Good evening.

Thank you for accepting our invitation. Who won today?

Well, I think the European people won, because things will be decided on May 26th in the European Parliamentary elections. I think that the prime minister and the leadership of Fidesz have decided responsibly when they did not allow the unity of the EPP to be dismantled, and they themselves did not disintegrate the party either. They actually froze our position in the party. Let's use this expression because it is more meaningful than suspension, because big forces wanted us to be suspended or locked out. I think it is more meaningful and clearer to say that we have said that it is very good that by keeping the option open to maintain the European Peoples Party’s unity, the possibility is still open that the EPP can go back to the road that is still there, which is anti-immigration and Christian-Democratic foundations. We have to wait until May 26th for the European voters to decide. From then on, it will make sense to talk about all kinds of consequences, opportunities and the future.

I have a number of questions about what you have just said, especially on the unity of the People’s Party. We’ll come back to that later. Viktor Orbán said at the international press conference that Fidesz and the EPP made a good decision. However, when answering questions, he also said that the exit statement was in his pocket the whole time. So today's vote or decision was multi-faceted. Can you call this decision a compromise solution?

We have been trying, not months, but for years, to bring back to the ground of common sense the debates that are taking place in the European Union. It is unfortunate to see that these debates are taking place within the European People's Party, when we have to decide on fundamental and common-sense issues. For example, whether it is permissible for Europe to let happen what has been happening for the last three years, despite the falling numbers, which by the way is due to the action of some Member States. That is, migrants arriving in large numbers to the continent through uncontrolled, illegal channels. On this issue, the EPP was not able to adopt an anti-immigration stance, firmly defending the borders and stopping the migration, but we see that a significant part of the People's Party has made a deal with the pro-migration European left. So in this struggle I think common sense is what is the true dividing line. Or we can say that a new dividing line runs through the European party system today. Not on the Hungarian party system, though it goes through that too, but in Hungary it happens in the traditional left-right framework. In the case of European parties, however, it can be seen that the EPP, which was originally supposedly a center-right, Christian-democratic umbrella organization, is now deeply divided along these lines.

Yes, with my previous guests in the studio we talked about the notion that Fidesz's loyalty and commitment to the European People's Party has never been questioned. However, the fidelity of the People's Party to the idea of the founding fathers, or to what extent the original idea was realized, and how far the EPP is today from the origin of the party, is debatable.

We have said this for months, even for years, that we believe in Helmut Kohl's legacy. For us, the legacy represented by Helmut Kohl is to be followed, not only in terms of Christian democracy, but also in terms of European institutions and European democracy in general. Let’s not forget: one of his most important principles was that small Member States, that is smaller Member States than France and Germany, have the same right and significance in a political debate as the big states, and for Helmut Kohl it was inconceivable that larger states would force their will onto smaller ones by disregarding the political and legal consensus. And, it seems that this has changed in the EPP. We could also say, and we do often say, that we did not move away from the origin, but that the EPP, or a significant part of the EPP’s satellite parties, have been drifting towards the European liberals and socialists and social democrats. This raises fundamental questions. How can we distinguish ourselves from the left if we share the same principles? And, how can we avoid the absurd situation in, for example, Slovenia, Hungary, or Poland that we should enter into an alliance with parties with whom we are struggling in a very serious fight at home and who have totally different worldviews and fundamental political principles?

It is clear, and all that is happening at the finish of the EP election campaign, because we are two months before the vote. Viktor Orbán said at the international press conference that Fidesz is still campaigning for the People's Party and will continue its work so that it remains the strongest party alliance. Is the trust in Manfred Weber the same? Or, how does Fidesz now determine its relationship with Weber, the European Commission presidential candidate?

We continue to define trust as we have done so far. Of those candidates, of whom the EPP finally chose the so-called top candidate that we nominate for commission president—which is not an institutionalized category, but still an existing form—Manfred Weber is the closest to the position represented by Fidesz.

And do Fidesz voters think so too? Voters, who will vote on May 26th and, say, follow the campaign on a daily basis, and have been following what the European People's Party, with Manfred Weber on top of it, is “committing” against us, how should they vote? Will they also think along this logic?

Luckily, the EPP cannot be voted for in the European Parliament elections, because there is no EPP as a party. The EPP is an umbrella organization. We are the EPP ourselves, the Fidesz and the Christian Democratic Party, and other members of the EPP. The EPP is not a candidate at the elections, so the Hungarian voters are in an easy position, because they have to vote for those whom they also voted for at the last three successive elections or at the last European Parliamentary election. They have to vote for whomever clearly represents the interests of Hungary and the interests of the Hungarian people in Brussels, and not for those who represent the interests of Brussels at home, like the opposition parties. And, since 2015, there has been a very clear and definite element: the issue of migration, illegal migration, and migration in general. In this regard, the prime minister made it quite clear when he said that we had won four elections, three times with a constitutional majority. Not only amongst the EPP parties, but amongst all European parties, Fidesz has the highest proportion of victory and support. So it is nonsensical to accuse us of not having legitimacy and we would not know exactly what we should do in the light of the opinion of the Hungarian people. So we have to look at where the EPP is going. If the EPP is not going in the direction where we are now and what the Hungarian people have assigned to us, then we need to think about where our place is. Therefore, I think that a wise decision was made in light of this. The Hungarian and European voters will decide what proportions will be formed in the European Parliament and will decide on the weight of the People's Party, whether or not other pro-immigration political forces will be strengthened or not. In light of this, we will have to rethink whether the People's Party is going in the right direction and whether it is acceptable that a significant part of the EPP has practically made a deal in the background with the pro-immigration left.

And, obviously, the definitive answers to the questions you just raised will be shaped by future developments, including where Fidesz will be in the future. Practically, if we put it in the language of the Hungarian people, now both Fidesz and the EPP won some time.

I just wanted to add that it doesn't really raise any questions for us. As the prime minister put it, no one should have any doubts: we will not change our policy. On May 26th we'll be right where we are now. Our position will not change, since we have been saying consistently for three years what we say about migration, and for three years we have been consistently representing our positions about the institutions of the European Union, about the nature of European democracy, about the scary and unimaginably growing—although denied—political influence of George Soros, and about a number of other issues. So the position of Fidesz cannot change in the election in neither absolute nor relative terms, because we have a mandate and a fully open and clear program of what we think of Europe, how we want to make Europe stronger, and it keeps us where we have been in the past for eight years and actually in the past twenty years.

After the vote today, another decision was made: the creation of a special committee investigating the state of the rule of law. For the time being, we don’t know how long the mandate of the members of the committee will last. However, Viktor Orbán also mentioned at the press conference that it is in everyone's interest that the report be made only after the European Parliamentary elections. We know that during the trial period, Fidesz will not be allowed to participate in the work of the party family, will not be able to exercise its voting rights, and will not be able to nominate candidates for any post. Fidesz accepted this decision. Can we know exactly what this committee will do? By accepting this decision, we are again following an Austrian example.

This committee, the three wise men, as they say, can have one task: to report on the facts. So we are also looking forward to see if they will be willing to judge us based upon the facts, because the facts are stubborn things, as they say. In the past eight years, the media law, the independence of the judiciary, the basic principles, and the wording of the Hungarian Basic Law have all proved their Euro-conformity—we have proof of that on paper. It is, however, an impossible situation that a framework that was previously validated, approved, and accepted by a Commission can be re-opened, because it is the political interest of a few western European parties—not primarily of EPP parties, but mostly of liberal and left-wing parties, but also of some parts of the People’s Party—to generate a political debate. Simply for political reasons they are questioning matters that are legally fixed and done, things about which we have been clarified and approved. There is no content behind the political attacks, no facts, only political opinions. We are happy to fight such battles, and we have fought these in recent years, because in the end you always have to decide on the law and the facts, and we are standing before that with an open and clean conscience.

Zoltán Kovács, thank you for accepting our invitation.

Thank you.

And, now, analysis and chances after the first round of the Slovak presidential election, which was won hands down by civil rights activist Zuzana Čaputová. She received more than twice as many votes as EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, who was supported by Robert Fico's party. So the two of them qualified for the March 30th second round of the elections that will decide everything. By telephone we are now connecting with Pál Csáky, MEP of the Party of the Hungarian Community of Slovakia in the European People’s Party, from Brussels. I wish you a good evening.

Good evening, greetings.

Mr. Representative, before we talk about the presidential election, let’s begin with today's topic, since the delegation of the Party of the Hungarian Community also attended the EPP’s political assembly. Earlier, your party expressed that the Party of the Hungarian Community rejects any proposal to exclude or suspend Fidesz from the European People's Party. In light of this, how do you evaluate today's general meeting and the made decision?

Perhaps I can tell you that I am talking now from a hotel close to the parliament. I am here with the Fidesz delegation and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. We analyzed a bit of the responses to today’s event. On the whole, I think it was a very amateur thing for some of the European Peoples Party members to make such a proposal at the beginning of the election campaign. I think it shouldn't have happened. Not only do we think this way, but I think that 35–40% of the participants think this way too. This is what they expressed. The compromise that has been created I think is good, and now we have to focus on making the best possible results for all of us, that is, for Fidesz, for the Party of the Hungarian Community, and for the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, so that we can create a strong representation of the Carpathian Basin here.

And, now in Slovakia, at least just as many efforts must be concentrated on the second round of the presidential election next week. The first round took place on Saturday. The Hungarian voters in Slovakia were not in an easy position. József Menyhárt, President of the Party of the Hungarian Community, started as a candidate for the party, then withdrew for Robert Mistrik, the seemingly most powerful opposition candidate, who eventually also withdrew to support the liberal civil rights activist Zuzana Čaputová. How could Čaputová address the Hungarian electorate, or did they simply vote for her because of the lack of an alternative?

We apologize to our viewers. The phone line with Pál Csáky was interrupted. I am waiting for the answer of my colleagues to see what the solution is, whether we can reconnect with Pál Csáky. We ask for a little patience from our viewers. This is the beauty of live connecting. We are waiting to restore the telephone connection with Pál Csáky, a member of Party of the Hungarian Community in Slovakia, MEP in the EPP, who said that as a member of a two-person delegation, the other member was József Menyhárt, President of the Party of the Hungarian Community, he participated in today's general meeting and today's vote in the EPP. Now they are in a hotel near the European Parliament in Brussels, with the Hungarian delegation. Then we continued the conversation discussing the first round of the Slovak presidential election. Zuzana Čaputová, a green politician and civil rights activist, and EU-Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, candidate of the party of Robert Fico, will be competing to become President of Slovakia in the second round. This is where our conversation was interrupted, and it seems that Pál Csáky is back with us. No, Pál Csáky is not here. Until the telephone connection is restored, we will show you the statement of the winner of the first round of the Slovak presidential election, Zuzana Čaputová. Here it is.

Zuzana Čaputová, who was recently an outsider, could become the first female head of state in Slovakia soon, celebrated her success moderately after the first round of the presidential election. She reached 40.57% of the votes at last week's vote, while Maroš Šefčovič, the candidate of the governing party, received fewer than half of that. The EU Commissioner closed with18.66% and in second place. “I see people wanting change. The Slovak electorate can imagine as a head of state a candidate who has not been in politics for a long time, but is approaching today's reality with a new perspective and is solving problems differently,” said Čaputová. The candidate of the outsider Progressive Slovakia turned to politics a year ago, when a huge series of demonstrations began in the country due to the murder of the investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, who explored corruption and the mafia. A significant part of Hungarians in Slovakia voted for Čaputová, and the politician indicated that she would pay special attention to them as president. “I am a candidate who cares about minorities and appreciates the national communities. I would like to offer them values ​​based on equity,” stressed the candidate. Hungarians in Slovakia voted for Čaputová despite the fact that the lawyer would openly say that if she had to choose between the Visegrád countries or Brussels, she would definitely prefer the EU. The liberal candidate, just like George Soros, is committed to the creation of the “United States of Europe.” Since none of the candidates in the first round of the presidential election reached 50% of the votes, a second round has to be held. This will happen on March 30th.

Unfortunately, there is still no telephone line with Pál Csáky, but of course we will call the MP of the European Parliament again in a forthcoming broadcast. As for the Slovak elections, let's talk about Béla Bugár, the candidate for the Most-Bridge mixed party, who emphasized before the election that he was running as a Slovak citizen. He achieved very poor results, 3%, much less than Gyula Bárdos had before, who had run as the candidate of the Party of the Hungarian Community at the previous presidential election. So, next week, the presidential post in Slovakia will be decided on between the liberal, pro-EU, pro-West, and pro-immigration Čaputová and the left-wing, anti-immigration EU-commissioner Maroš Šefčovič.

Dear viewers, you were watching the V4, the magazine of the Visegrád 4. I’ll see you next week at the usual time. Goodbye.

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