The departure of Hungary’s ruling party from the European People’s Party’s (EPP) parliamentary group is detrimental to the EPP, is likely to further deepen the European divide between old and new member states and could also have repercussions on Western European countries’ economic ties with Hungary, Votewatch Europe writes in an analysis.
“In addition to the obvious changes in the balance of power in the EU institutions and the related policy implications, the broader geopolitical dynamics should not be neglected,” the article, entitled “Impact of EPP-Fidesz divorce to be bigger than expected”, concludes.
The article also goes on to state that “it also deepens the geographical divides between the North-Western EU and (part of) ‘new Europe’, providing fertile ground for the increasing influence of non-EU players in the EU’s backyard.”
With the departure announced on Wednesday, the EPP group has lost 12 of its MEPs (of the 13 conservative Hungarian MEPs, György Hölvényi is a member of the junior coalition is a member of the Christian Democratic People’s Party, and he so far remains in the EPP group). Given the close ties of the ethnic Hungarians’ RMDSZ party in Romania with Fidesz, Votewatch also raised the prospect that RMDSZ MEPs might follow suit, but President Hunor Kelemen said they will remain.
Votewatch also points out that Fidesz’s departure could weaken the market-oriented forces of the EPP.
“It is important to remember that the Hungarians (along with other delegations from the CEE region) have been generally on the free-market end of the policy spectrum within the EPP when it comes to the regulation of the internal market and EU’s international trade agenda,” the analysis indicates.
As for the future of the 12 Fidesz MEPs, they now have three choices: they can continue to work as independents – which has its benefits, but also reduces their relative weight, or they can join one of two groups who would likely welcome them: the right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) group with 75 MEPs of the European Parliament’s total 705, or the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), with 62 MEPs.
Based on how Fidesz MEPs voted in the past, Votewatch points out that in 72 percent of the European Parliament votes, they agreed with the position of the ECR and only in 50 percent with ID.
The analysis also weighs the possible economic impacts of the move, pointing out that “EU countries with important business interests in Hungary and the area, like Germany, France, but also other ‘richer’ countries like Austria or the Netherlands, risk losing ground to non-EU players from both West and East whose interests are not always aligned with theirs in the region: the US and the UK on the one hand, Russia, China and, more recently, Turkey, on the other.”
The analysis ends with the warning that next year’s Hungarian general elections might be decisive in Hungary’s relations with the EU.
“The EU stakeholders need to pay close attention to these developments and, if they want to prevent further divisions within the EU, should consider a multi-faceted strategic approach (as opposed to an emotional response), that takes into account local economic and cultural specificities and that adapts their communication to them”.