Delia wants EPP to show Orban the door, Busuttil says little about Hungary regime

PN leader Adrian Delia has reiterated a call for an urgent summit of the European People’s Party to discuss the position of Hungarian member party Fidesz

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia
Opposition Leader Adrian Delia

PN leader Adrian Delia has reiterated a call for an urgent summit of the European People’s Party to discuss the position of Hungarian member party Fidesz.

Delia yesterday stressed that the COVID-19 crisis was a Europe-wide challenge that necessitated a reaffirmation of the EPP parties’ values, which he said were threatened by open-ended emergency laws approved by Viktor Orban in Hungary.

“The situation regarding Fidesz’s membership of the EPP family has now reached a point where the EPP must speak with one voice,” Delia said, who wrote to EPP President Donald Tusk for an urgent video conference summit that could demand the expulsion of Orban from the EPP.

But the EPP’s secretary-general Simon Busuttil, Delia’s predecessor, has been less vocal about the new regime laws implemented by Orban: 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.

“Your original request was sent to our Press Service. Kindly note that is the Press Service and not the office of the Secretary General that issues public communications. Meanwhile, however, you may wish to refer to the public statement made by the President of the EPP, Mr Tusk.”

Former EU chief Donald Tusk is urging the largest party in the European Parliament to expel Viktor Orban’s Fidesz from its ranks. Tusk made the plea to the European People’s Party (EPP) after Hungarian MPs passed a controversial coronavirus law. It allows Hungarian PM Orban — 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.

In the past Busuttil has been taken to task by the Labour Party over comments in the EP in which he defended the Hungarian EPP member. In 2012, Orban defended constitutional changes on the central bank, the judiciary and data protection authority, which attracted legal proceedings from the European Commission concerning the institutions’ independence.

The European Parliament then approved a resolution whether to activate Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which is used to investigate breaches of EU values. The resolution – tabled by centre-left and left political groups – was approved 315-263 with 49 abstentions.

But it drew strong criticism from the EPP.

Busuttil, whose future role as PN leader would be carved in the shadow of the Labour leadership’s Panama corruption crisis, was deferent to the Hungarian leader and his country.

“Mr President, this debate is unprecedented. It is the first time we have debated infringement proceedings of this nature in this institution and in the presence of the highest European authorities, including no less than the Prime Minister of the country at the centre of the debate,” Busuttil said in his contribution on the plenary debate on rule of law in Hungary back in 2020.

While not opposing Article 7 proceedings, Busuttil said Hungary should be given time to resolve matters with the Commission. “We must distinguish between the legal process – the due process – and the public political debate. This House can very well express its political views, but this is not a tribunal and it should not replace the legal and judicial process. We should therefore give time for the legal process to take place and hold back from jumping to conclusions until this process, led by the Commission, is completed. Further action on our part at this stage is not just premature, but could also do more harm than good because it would damage the respect that our institution enjoys with the Hungarian people as much as it would damage the image of Hungary.”