Labour MEP takes Busuttil to task over silence on Orbán's coronavirus clampdown

Labour MEP Miriam Dalli has taken former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil to task over his silence on Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán

EPP secretary-general Simon Busuttil and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban
EPP secretary-general Simon Busuttil and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban

The former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil was described as being completely absent on his European political family’s lack of action on Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s rule by decree during the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour MEP Miriam Dalli told MaltaToday that Busuttil, now the secretary-general of the European People’s Party, was absent about Orbán’s clamp-down on civil liberties in Hungary – despite statements from PN leader Adrian Delia yesterday, calling for a virtual EPP summit to discuss the expulsion of Orbán’s Fidesz party from the EPP.

“The Nationalist Party in the European Parliament speaks strongly of wanting to defend democracy and rule of law in Malta, but does very little in order to address the deteriorating situation in other countries such as Hungary. A classic case of two weights and two measures and double standards,” she said.

Labour MEP Miriam Dalli
Labour MEP Miriam Dalli

“Simon Busuttil, who described his job as leading the EPP’s political positions, is completely absent in encouraging the EPP to expel Fidesz.

“Simon Busuttil preaches on fundamental rights of the media but then ignores questions by local journalists about his lack of action towards Fidesz in Hungary. It is therefore very logical to deduce that his stance in Malta was a hypocritical act, fueled by purely partisan reasons every time he and his colleagues sought to attack Malta abroad. This is a typical tactic of the EPP, which we have now grown so accustomed to in the European Parliament,” Dalli said.

Hungarian MPs passed a controversial coronavirus law allowing Orbán – long at odds with Brussels – to rule by decree as long as a state of emergency is in effect. The law also sets prison terms of up to five years for those convicted of spreading false information about the pandemic.

Adrian Delia has gone on record numerous times saying that Fidesz’s membership of the EPP family had now reached a point where the EPP must speak with one voice. Even Nationalist MEP Robert Metsola joined a group of signatories demanding a clear position on rule of law in Hungary from the EPP.

But Busuttil has been less vocal about the new regime laws implemented by Orbán: twice Busuttil forwarded MaltaToday’s questions to the EPP press service when asked whether he agreed with Article 7 sanctions against the Hungarian strongman. No answer was received from the press service so far.

“Orbán is the same prime minister that continuously opposes any joint efforts to help countries like Malta when it comes to irregular migration,” Dalli told MaltaToday yesterday. “Where is Simon Busuttil to convince his EPP colleague in Hungary to change his stance on migration? At the same time, the PN’s own exponents were very much present to condemn 11 Maltese soldiers and threaten them with life imprisonment without first checking the facts.”

The EPP is divided on what to do about Fidesz: the German CDU is divided about expelling the party, while the French Republicains, Italy’s Forza Italia, and Spain’s Pardido Popular support Orbán. He also enjoys the support of Baltic and Central Eastern parties.

The coronavirus lockdown also means the EPP will not expel Fidesz without convening a meeting in Brussels.

Sacking Fidesz from the EPP would lose the bloc, the largest in European Parliament and consistently the most influential, 13 Hungarian MEPs. Some parties fear that expelling Fidesz would attract other MEPs in the EPP from switching their alliance and following Fidesz.