You might think Germany’s leading Christian Democrat parties have little to prove regarding their commitment to democratic values. But there is a serious gap: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its closest coalition partner the Christian Social Union (CSU) have yet to vigorously challenge the rights-damaging policies of their ally, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The silence of the European People’s Party (EPP), the umbrella of center-right parties in European institutions to which CDU, CSU as well as Hungary’s Fidesz belong, has only emboldened Orban at home and abroad. It’s time for the CDU and the CSU to seriously reconsider their ties with Orban’s Fidesz before it further damages democracy in Europe.
Fidesz is relentlessly using populist, xenophobic campaigns, and smearing journalists and nongovernmental organizations that expose rights violations and high-level corruption. The vilification of Hungarian-born philanthropist and billionaire George Soros – declared public enemy number one now for years – is part of wider Fidesz’s efforts to slur critics and reduce space for debate.
Right after the recent legislative election, pro-government weekly Figyelo published a list of 200 academics, journalists and civil society actors and labelled them ‘Soros mercenaries’. The list included staff members of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Amnesty International, the anti-corruption organization Transparency International and others.
In the past two years, the Hungarian government adopted laws aimed at silencing critics. A 2017 law requires nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign funding to register as a foreign-funded organization or face sanctions – a provision inspired by Russia’s ‘Foreign Agent’ Law. Hungary’s government looks set to fulfil Orban’s campaign pledge to pass a new legislative package aimed at hindering nongovernmental organizations working on migration and curb their access to funds. Parliament is just starting its general debate on the draft bills.
Last week, the Open Society Foundation, an organization funded by Soros which has been distributing grants to local nongovernmental organizations for decades decided to move its international operations from Budapest to Berlin citing the “increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary.”
CDU and CSU leaders now have a choice: Either they tolerate Fidesz’s abusive ideology and let it spread within the EPP umbrella; or they decide to reject Fidesz and take the lead in suspending the party from their European platform. With the campaign we launch today, we call on them to protect democracy and European values: it’s high time to #ExpelFidesz from EPP.