Orban Trying to Salvage Membership in Biggest EU Political Group

Zoltan Simon
Hungary's Orban Suspended From EU's Biggest Political Family

(Bloomberg) -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is calling fellow members in the European Union Christian Democrats to find a way to salvage his Fidesz party’s membership in the EU’s biggest political family, a senior minister said.

The positions between Orban, who’s become a standard-bearer for nationalists, and the Christian Democrats, also known as the European People’s Party, have edged closer in the past week, Gergely Gulyas, the minister in charge of the prime minister’s office, told reporters at a briefing in Budapest on Thursday. He declined to speculate whether the effort would be successful in staving off Fidesz’s expulsion.

Manfred Weber, the EPP’s candidate to lead the EU executive arm, this week called on Orban to end an anti-EU campaign targeting fellow EPP member and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, apologize to members of the political group and guarantee the status of the George Soros-founded Central European University in Hungary or face ejection from the EPP.

The ultimatum is vague enough to allow for a compromise that could avoid expulsion, according to political-risk consultancy Eurasia.

‘Stop Short’

“At this point, our call is that EPP delegates will stop short of excluding Fidesz, opting instead for a temporary suspension,” Eurasia analysts including Mujtaba Rahman wrote in report on Wednesday. The EPP is keen to limit political losses before the European Parliament elections in May, they said.

In a sign of compromise, the government will take down the Juncker posters next week before the campaign’s scheduled end on March 15, Gulyas said.

Orban urged “calm” in the EPP standoff after the pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet on Thursday called on Fidesz to leave the center-right alliance and join nationalists. The EU Christian Democrats are scheduled to discuss Fidesz’s membership at a March 20 meeting in Brussels.

--With assistance from Marton Eder.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zoltan Simon in Budapest at zsimon@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net, ;Fergal O'Brien at fobrien@bloomberg.net, Jones Hayden, Kevin Costelloe

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