Hungary’s ruling party, the right-wing Fidesz, is to leave the largest grouping in the European Parliament.
The European People’s Party (EPP) voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing its internal rules in a move that would have made it easier to expel Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party.
Mr Orban denounced the decision as „anti-democratic“ and announced Fidesz’s withdrawal from the bloc.
He and the EPP have long been at odds over his democratic record in Hungary.
The party had been suspended from the centre-right EPP since 2019 over concerns about human rights in Hungary and its attacks against the EPP leadership.
On Wednesday, members of the EPP voted 148 to 28 in favour of a decision which would allow them to suspend or dismiss entire national parties.
In a letter shared on Twitter, Mr Orban described the changes to the EPP rules as „a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters“.
„This is antidemocratic, unjust and unacceptable,“ the Hungarian leader continued, adding that the 12 Fidesz members would leave the EPP immediately.
The European group, whose members include German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, will remain the largest bloc in the European Parliament.
Tensions between Fidesz and the EPP escalated two years ago, when Mr Orban’s party turned its anti-EU rhetoric against senior EPP members.
Fidesz commissioned posters featuring EPP member and then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, alongside a photograph of the Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros – who is frequently the target of conspiracy theories and anti-immigration rhetoric.
The image was captioned „you too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing“ and accused Mr Juncker of pushing a pro-immigration plan backed by Mr Soros.
But relations between the EPP and the Hungarian party continued to sour.
In December last year, the EPP suspended the head of the Fidesz delegation, Tamas Deutsch, after he compared EPP head Manfred Weber to the Nazis’ secret police force, the Gestapo.