It is also surprising to see that, despite Fidesz’s long history of political animosity with Jean-Claude Juncker, all Fidesz MEPs ended up supporting him against the far right ENF group and others who called on Juncker to resign after the referendum on Brexit. However, the study also highlights that Viktor Orbán’s fellow party members were not afraid to go against their own political group’s position in the EP on several issues sensitive in Hungary: the Commission’s proposal for the relocation of refugees throughout the EU, for example, was unanimously rejected by Fidesz MEPs.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is one of the harshest critics of the European Union and its institutions. He mobilized more than 3 million Hungarians to vote against the EU’s migration quota system in a recent referendum. Also, he frequently condemns EU sanctions on Russia and he was one of the two European leaders who voted against EC President Jean-Claude Juncker’s nomination. Given the troubled relationship between Hungary and the EU, VoteWatch Europe and Policy Solutions conducted a joint research to examine the level of political support that Orbán’s views enjoy among the members of his party whose role is precisely to ensure policy dialogue between Hungary and Brussels: the Hungarian Members of the European Parliament. The objective of the analysis was to reveal whether Hungarian political parties have the same positions on key issues in both Brussels and Budapest.
The analysis clearly shows that Fidesz MEPs vote in the majority of cases in line with the European People’s Party (see infographic). Notably, in some cases Fidesz MEPs keep a European line despite Fidesz’s official position in Hungary. Interesting cases included Russia, in which despite the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán urge to end the sanctions regime, Fidesz MEPs endorsed a tougher European stance against Putin when the European Parliament rejected the amendment tabled by the GUE-NGL group which called on the EU to put an end to the policy of sanctions against Russia.
Similarly, while Hungarian government officials have continuously expressed their support for Turkey’s accession, Fidesz MEPs voted for obstructing the country’s path to the EU when they supported an amendment, tabled by GUE-NGL, that pointed out that the frozen chapters for the Turkish accession to the EU shall be opened only after Turkey will fulfil its obligations under the negotiating framework, rather than right after the satisfaction of the official benchmarks.
It was also surprising to see that, despite Fidesz’s long history of political animosity with Jean-Claude Juncker, all Fidesz MEPs ended up supporting him when they voted against an amendment to a non-legislative resolution on Brexit (tabled by the far-right ENF) calling on Juncker to resign. Furthermore, while Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was considering the reintroduction of death penalty in Hungary, his party members supported the European Parliament’s call for the worldwide abolition of the capital punishment.
However, the VoteWatch-Policy Solutions study shows that Fidesz MEPs did not shy away from going against EPP’s position in a number of symbolically important cases for their national party. One of these was the Commission’s proposal for the relocation of refugees throughout the EU, that was unanimously rejected by the Fidesz MEPs. This came as no surprise considering Viktor Orbán’s opinion on the refugee crisis and Brussels’ policies on handling it. Fidesz MEPs also rejected a resolution calling on the Polish government to respect the rulings of its constitutional court – this voting behaviour seems to indicate that, when it comes to the struggles between the EU and the Member States over the rule of law, Fidesz is at odds with the positions of the rest of its parliamentary group (EPP).
The analysis highlights that Hungary’s opposition groups also exhibit some interesting patterns in their voting behaviour. In the case of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), despite its frequent criticism of PM Orbán for being overly accommodative towards Putin, it called for ending the EU sanctions against Russia, putting pragmatic economic considerations over political animosity. Similarly, while MSZP officials have often compared Viktor Orbán to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claiming that both leaders turn their respective countries to illiberal democracies, it was surprising to see that their MEPs voted in favour of easing the demands on Turkey’s accession.
It was also unexpected that while the far right Jobbik harshly denounced the Ukrainian association agreement, some of its leading officials voted in favour of its ratification in the Hungarian National Assembly. The issue of Turkish accession also highlighted internal gaps in the radical party’s position - while its leader Gábor Vona could picture Turkey as an EU member state, the majority of his party, as well as its MEPs are decisively against it. Interestingly, Jobbik also tends to voice more toned-down positions in the EP than at home, as it was in case of voting on the capital punishment.
Policy Solutions is a progressive political research institute based in Budapest. It was founded in 2008 and it is committed to the values of liberal democracy, solidarity, equal opportunity, sustainability and European integration. The focus of Policy Solutions’ work is on understanding political processes in Hungary and the European Union. Among the pre-eminent areas of our research are the investigation of how the quality of democracy evolves, the analysis of factors driving euroscepticism, populism and the far-right, and election research.
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