Brussels – Three of Slovenia’s four MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP) did not back changes to the rules of procedure allowing the European People’s Party (EPP) to suspend or exclude a member party from its ranks. Ljudmila Novak, the fourth Slovenian EPP MEP, voted for the changes, having been one of its proponents.
The overhauled internal rules are seen as paving the way to exclude Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s Fidesz, which already announced its quitting the EPP after the vote.
Romana Tomc and Milan Zver, both members of PM Janez Janša Democrats (SDS), did not back the changes, arguing the time when Europe is busy dealing with the pandemic amid a vaccination time race is not right to rush changes to such fundamental provisions.
The pair believes that such major changes should result from a broad and open debate, while they stressed in a written statement the EPP was committed to inclusion, democracy and dialogue.
They also find it problematic that the EPP rushed changing the provisions which could affect democratically-elected MEPs’ executing of their terms in office.
Both regret the EPP having failed to find and adopt important decisions regarding Fidesz, while shifting responsibility onto MEPs amounted to ducking responsibility.
Tomc and Zver think today’s decision will weaken the EPP, which its rivals have rejoiced at while the EPP should be worried about, so they would like the political grouping to discuss its future as as soon as possible.
Franc Bogovič of the non-parliamentary Slovenian People’s Party (SLS) said he had voted against because the vote was also a vote about the fate of the EPP and consequently about a change of the political map in Europe. “Today is a sad day for the EU and the EPP,” he added in a statement.
Echoing Tomc and Zver’s stance, he said the decision was not adopted at the right time or place, arguing the issues with Orban and Fidesz should have been resolved by EPP leader Donald Tusk. He regrets the process of changing the party’s internal rules being politically-motivated.
The MEP fears today’s decision would lead to a weaker EPP, which could soon lose a majority in the European Parliament, resulting in the Parliament’s greater fragmentation, as well as in the far-right gaining ground in the EU.
Bogovič does not intend to leave the EPP, saying he saw no alternative to it, nor does Ljudmila Novak of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi), who said she had voted for the changes as they were needed and represented a balanced compromise.
The changes are not directed against any EPP member in particular, while there was a need to set down clear rules for the event of severe violations of the political grouping’s values, Novak said in a statement.
The EPP always promotes and defends the values encouraged by the founding fathers of post-war Europe, she stressed.
According to Novak, during the pandemic people feel they are being deprived of their basic rights, which makes it even more important for the EPP to fight for preserving democracy which was hard to achieve, and which entails human rights, media freedom and the rule of law.
As for Fidesz leaving the EPP, Novak said this was Orban’s “sovereign decision” which put an end to the uncertainty surrounding the party’s status in the EPP.
The STA is still waiting for Tomc and Zver to reply to its query whether they intend to stay in the EPP.
Slovenia has a total of eight MEPs.