Opinion

This time, Viktor Orbán has gone too far

STOCKHOLM — The time has come for the European Peoples Party to finally stand up to Viktor Orbán.

As Europes biggest and most diverse political grouping, we believe in working across political and cultural differences to build a stronger Europe, and are not afraid of having tough debates. Over the past few years, weve had constructive dialogue with the Hungarian prime ministers Fidesz party and repeatedly warned it was in danger of crossing a line.

That line was crossed last month, when Orbán claimed, at an event commemorating the legacy of the great German statesman Helmut Kohl, that Hungarys “illiberal” model of democracy would be driving force that revitalizes Europe and the EPP.

That prospect is deeply disturbing. Where Kohl united Europe by bringing East and West back together, Orbán is polarizing the Continent by attempting to wrench them apart.

Enough is enough. Many European citizens are wondering where the EPP stands. We can no longer afford to minimize political developments in Hungary. We must make our internal debate public and make up our minds as to where we stand.

It is crucial that the EPP does not allow the rule of law to become politicized.

The biggest danger to our party is an attack on our values, not the potential fallout from our decision to defend them. The EPP must intensify the debate ahead of our party congress in Helsinki in November.

Hungary is clearly drifting away from the EPPs statutes.

Under Orbán, asylum seekers are portrayed as criminals and enemies, and the people who help them threatened with jail sentences. Jailing human rights defenders and violating refugee rights is against the EU charter of fundamental rights.

He has also overseen an attack against academic and cultural freedoms, and a smear campaign against the EU, which he accuses of promoting an “invasion” of Muslims.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán | European Parliament

In June, Fidesz introduced constitutional reform making it illegal for members of an “alien population” to establish themselves in Hungary. That put the nail in the coffin of any potential common EU solution on migration.

The EPP believes migration is a European issue that requires a European solution. We embrace the key principle of European solidarity. We want to address the root causes of migration and put in place a system of regulated legal migration that fights human trafficking and irregular migration.

We believe Europe needs policies that better differentiate between people who have the right to international protection and economic migrants, and better implement mechanisms to return those who do not qualify for asylum.

Hungarys refusal to deal with migration at an EU level is a de facto veto on the smooth-functioning of the bloc and a gift to far-right, anti-EU parties on the rise across the Continent.

Until all EU member countries agree to help shoulder the burden of migration, resentment in countries such as Italy, Germany and Sweden will grow, and anti-immigrant sentiment will continue to rise.

Orbáns policies have emboldened his Central and Eastern European neigbhors to follow suit and turn their backs on Europe. His vocal support for Putins war in Ukraine and his call for an end of sanctions against Moscow is also worrying, and runs counter to the values of the EPP, which strongly supports Ukraines independence and sovereignty.

Belonging to the EPP brings immense benefits — but it also requires that a party respects our core values and vision for Europe.

It is crucial that the EPP does not allow the rule of law to become politicized.

To be sure, there are legitimate concerns that Hungary is being unfairly targeted. Double standards do exist within the EU.

But while it will be difficult to take action against a member of the EPP if other European parties fail to take similar steps — including the European Social Democrats against their sister parties in countries such as Romania and Slovakia — the inaction of others is no excuse.

The EPP should lead by example.

Orbáns declared agenda is to spread his brand of politics and extreme nationalism. We cannot let this cancer erode our principles.

Weve reached a crucial moment of truth. EPP leaders must clarify where they stand on Fidesz. Further uncertainty is likely to be highly damaging for the party.

Orbán addresses the European Parliaments plenary, April 2017 | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

EPP leaders should publicly challenge Fideszs rhetoric, policies and laws concerning Europe. Member parties should take an objective look at the facts, seriously discuss suspending or expelling Orbáns party, and have the courage to take a public stand.

Belonging to the EPP brings immense benefits — but it also requires that a party respects our core values and vision for Europe.

Confronting Orbán would be a long-overdue act of courage and political leadership. It will undoubtedly create a backlash among some populists, who will portray as discrimination against Hungary.

But addressing our differences with Orbáns party head on should be seen as a constructive step — an invitation to engage in dialogue and realign his vision of the EU to respect the EPP familys values.

In his summer speech this week, Orbán said it was crucial in politics not to “lose your compass.” He has lost his, but we in the EPP should not lose ours.

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt is a Swedish member of the European Parliament and vice-chair of the European Peoples Partys Gender Equality Committee.

Original Article