Manfred Weber, the group leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), said in Budapest that his talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had been constructive and covered several issues, but some problems had remained unresolved.
EPP has clear fundamental values which have to be respected by all EPP member parties, including Hungary’s ruling Fidesz, Weber told journalists during his visit to the Great Synagogue in Dohány Street. “As a dialogue between the two sides is still under way, I cannot tell you what concrete steps the EPP is going to take in the near future,” he said. The EPP group consists of 80 member parties, of which 13 initiated excluding Fidesz or suspending its membership, he said.
Weber welcomed the Hungarian government’s decision to end the advertising campaign criticising the European Union’s migration policies. It is essential for Fidesz to promise not to mount such campaigns in future, he said. The group leader said it would be an appropriate solution for Orbán to apologise for “problems” he had caused to EPP member parties.
Weber identified three major problems concerning Hungary, namely the EU’s Article 7 proceedings launched against the country, the infringement procedures under way in the European courts and the issue of the Central European University (CEU). Academic freedom is a fundamental value, he said, insisting that the CEU should stay in Budapest and continue to issue US accredited diplomas. Weber said he had held talks with the Technical University of Munich, German auto maker BMW and US universities on creating new teaching capacities enabling the university to stay in Budapest.
After paying tribute in the synagogue’s garden, Weber said he was there “to make clear” that in making European policies small communities are always taken into consideration. Weber warned that anti-Semitism is on the rise all over in Europe, adding that politicians have the job to speak out for religious freedoms. He hailed the thriving of a strong Jewish community in Hungary.