Fidesz's EU allies threaten "nuclear option" to halt Hungary's illiberal slide

By bne IntelliNews April 7, 2017

The EU could use its "nuclear option" against Hungary if the government continues to undermine democracy, a spokesman for the European Peoples’ Party (EPP) – the EU political group that includes Hungary's ruling Fidesz party - claimed on April 7.

International pressure for action to curtail Fidesz has grown due to Prime Minister Viktor Orban's targeting of the Central European University. The European conservative party bloc has become a focus of that pressure, with many calling for the EPP to bring Hungary into line.

MEP Siegfried Muresan told EurActiv that the caucus “will hold in-depth internal discussions and will follow the outcome of the European Commission’s assessment on the legality of the latest Hungarian law”.

“If the situation with Hungary continues, Article 7 might be put on the table,” Muresan warned. 

Under Article 7, which has never been implemented, a country can have its membership and voting rights, as well as single market access, suspended for a “serious and persistent breach” of EU values. Such sanctions, originally designed early this decade in response to issues in Hungary, are known as the "nuclear option".

Orban is increasingly isolated in Brussels. EPP caucus leader Manfred Weber tweeted on April 6 that “freedom of thinking, research and speech are essential for our European identity,” and “the EPP caucus will defend this at any cost”. Orban claimed that Weber has been misled in a written reply to him. 

EPP members also attacked MEP Jozsef Szajer, a Fidesz founding member, at a special EPP caucus leadership meeting on the Central European University case, Socialist MEP Istvan Ujhelyi told local media.

The angriest response came from Luxembourg MEP Frank Engel, who told Fidesz in an email to quit the bloc. “Forget the crap. We know what is going on and why. Why don't you leave both the EPP and the EU on your own terms? You are practically out anyway,” Engel wrote. 

EPP party leaders will discuss the CEU law with Fidesz at its presidency meeting on April 29.

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