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As the populist radical right-wing parties of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament gain momentum before the June elections, their efforts to move towards the center and cooperate with the mainstream could be disrupted by Fidesz's effort to join the group. At the same time, the parties in the Visegrad countries could make or break Fidesz's bid to join the ECR, as they see Russia's war against Ukraine very differently from Fidesz.

By Rudolf Berkes, Political Capital, Barbara Zmušková,, Aneta Zachová,, Aleksandra Krzysztoszek,


There is no Hungarian member of the populist radical right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) political family and group in the European Parliament. However, after Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party had to leave the European People’s Party (EPP) group in 2021, the idea of Fidesz joining the ECR was often floated in the media. At first, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz attempted to create a joint European radical/far-right coalition, embracing the Kremlin’s decade-old dream. However, this ambitious goal did not materialize, partly due to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, even after Fidesz had spent years building its relations and influence with both the parties of the ECR and the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group. After the failure of this attempt, which the party leadership made clear last autumn at the latest, Viktor Orbán publicly announced Fidesz’s intention to join the ECR in February 2024, after several hints in the preceding months.

The Hungarian opposition parties have reacted similarly to Fidesz’s departure from the EPP and its plans to join the ECR. They believe that having been “thrown out” of the EPP, Fidesz is now trying to find its place among the radical and far-right parties in the European Parliament.

The liberal party Momentum (Renew Europe, RE) noted for our questions that “after maneuvering itself out of the EU's largest party family, Fidesz is now a political orphan trying to sell its dwindling seats to radical right forces.” However, in their view “Fidesz’s self-identical political home would be the pro-Putin far-right ID faction”, rather than the ECR, based on their diverging views on foreign policy issues. Momentum highlighted the divergence between the ECR’s “strong stand against Putin's aggression and the Fidesz propaganda that slyly excuses it” and that the ECR’s negative view of “Viktor Orbán's obstructionism towards NATO enlargement and his subversive Balkans policy”, even though they share similar views on social policy.

Similarly, left-wing MEP, István Ujhelyi (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, S&D) also said in his response to our questions that although “Fidesz has long been looking for its place after being kicked out of the European People's Party (...) the extremist anti-European opportunist forces with which the current Fidesz has the most synergies obviously cannot be meaningful allies in the long run as they cannot agree on a common platform on many issues, mostly because of their excessive nationalist line.” Thus Ujhelyi sees that even if ECR seems the best current option for Fidesz at the moment, it is still a question “how much a guiding influence Fidesz could have in the ECR and how it can operate in a compromise-based system of fundamentally diverse parties”.

If the ECR ultimately accepts it, Fidesz could become the third largest delegation in the group after Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) and the Polish Law and Justice (PiS), which could make the ECR the third largest group - if the 30-member Council of member parties, the party family's main decision-making body, has the two-thirds majority needed to admit Fidesz. However, not all parties would welcome Fidesz, with its vocal pro-Kremlin and anti-Ukrainian views, and reconciling the differences between anti-Kremlin ECR members and Fidesz requires concessions from the latter. 

Fidesz’s possible effect on ECR’s internal dynamics and the future role of ECR in the European Parliament is difficult to precisely foresee according to Ujhelyi, as it remains to be seen, which party will dominate the ECR group, and how they relate to the values and practices of the European Union. The FdI and Czech Civic Democrats (ODS) could have a defining role in the future of the group. „If their soft skepticism is shifted to the more massively illiberal anti-Europeanism, then obviously the basic attitude of groups that hold European values in mind will be different” to the ECR group. In addition, their Atlanticist view on foreign policy issues such as the Russo-Ukrainian war could create difficulties in working with Fidesz.

The role of European values in a possible case-by-case cooperation with ECR is also underlined by Momentum, which would only work together with ECR on specific issues if their priorities regarding the rule of law, democratic values, and respect for women's and minority rights are fully met. Nevertheless, if the three-party grand coalition of EPP-S&D-Renew “were to look for new partners, Momentum would open up to the Greens rather than the ECR.”


Slovakia's SaS (Sloboda a Solidarita), the sole Slovak party within the ECR group in the European Parliament, lays out its vision for the next five years and the shifting dynamics within the political landscape.

"We will be opposed to elected MEPs from the Fidesz party getting into the ECR faction after the elections. If this happens, we will leave this faction," says Richard Sulík, leader of SaS’s election ballot. In SaS’s opinion, Fidesz does not belong in the ECR because of several incompatible positions.

SaS underscores its commitment to preventing Fidesz's entry into the faction and say it is finding “increasing agreement with like-minded liberal colleagues across ECR's member states” on this issue.

It is not yet clear what other group they might join in case they leave ECR, emphasizing the possibility of new factions emerging post-election.

In case they stay in ECR, SaS aims to bolster the classical-liberal economic DNA of the ECR group, which they understand as “principles of free and fair economic competition within a single market, with minimal regulations and a strong emphasis on subsidiarity”, according to SaS’s spokesperson, Ondrej Šprlák.

Regarding ECR's relationships with other political groups such as EPP, RE, and ID, SaS highlights a willingness to collaborate based on shared priorities. These include rational economic policies focusing on industrial competitiveness without subsidies or excessive bureaucratic burdens, energy source diversification including support for nuclear energy, securing the EU's external borders against illegal migration, and providing military assistance to Ukraine against Russian aggression.

SaS notes ECR’s particular interest in closer collaboration with EPP, noting an “alignment on long-term positions such as rational economic and energy policies, reevaluation of bans on combustion engines, and securing EU borders against illegal migration,” according to Šprlák.


The Law and Justice (PiS) party is a longtime ally of Fidesz, with leaders of both parties Jarosław Kaczyński and Viktor Orbán being good friends and often visiting each other. Consequently, it would be strange for PiS to oppose Fidesz joining the ECR group.

Still, there is one thing that may have divided the two parties in recent years, but in the recent two years came to pose a problem: a different approach to Russia.

The PiS government has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since the Russian invasion started, delivering weapons and receiving millions of war refugees. Kaczyński and then PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Kyiv in March 2023.

Hungary and the ruling Fidesz, on the other hand, not only maintains close contacts with the Kremlin, but is also sceptical of actively supporting Ukraine, insisting on peace talks to end the military conflict instead. Orbán’s opposition towards the €50 billion Ukraine Facility package caused a deadlock in the European Council last December and an extraordinary summit in early February was needed to solve the issue.

Despite a different perception of Russia, PiS favours Fidesz joining the ECR, said MEP Zdzisław Krasnodębski, whom contacted to ask about his expectations for the upcoming European elections and the possible further steps by the ECR.

“As PiS, we are open to Fidesz joining the European Conservatives and Reformists. Although we disagree with Fidesz's policy towards Russia, we have similar opinions on other issues,” he said.

Moreover, in the changing political context when it comes to the war in Ukraine, “these differences between our parties on this issue are also losing importance,” he stressed. 

Furthermore, Krasnodębski believes the attitude of other, more centrist parties, including German SPD, to be much more understanding towards Russia than Fidesz. 

“Personally, I do not think that the attitude towards Russia is an obstacle that would prevent us from considering admitting Fidesz to the ECR group,” the MEP said.

The next European Parliament is going to be more right-leaning than the previous one, according to the predictions. If the expectations are proven and ECR gains seats, it would attempt to influence the EU’s priorities by pursuing its ideas and values in accordance with the Charter of Values the party adopted at the Subiaco congress last month, Krasnodębski said.

The group would also contest the current climate and energy policy and the regulations that are adopted by the parliamentary majority or proposed by the European Commission in the current term.

Even the commissioners admit during works in the Parliament's committees “that some changes are needed” in the EU policies, Krasnodębski pointed out, citing experience from his own parliamentary work.

Consequently, he believes that the current European Commission’s policy would be revised after the June election.

“We would like it to change as much as possible in line with our ideas and strategy,” he stressed.

The ECR’s possible coalition with the EPP has been one of the key topics regarding the future composition of the European Parliament. The national coalitions between the EPP and ECR parties in Italy and Czech Republic, as well as Italian prime minister and the ECR president Giorgia Meloni’s good relations with the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have only fuelled the speculations that the EPP could be more willing to engage into collaboration with the ECR than to continue the coalition with socialists and liberals.

The ECR is open to cooperation with other groups and creating a center-right coalition, including with the EPP, Krasnodębski said.

As he sees it, the EPP currently includes parties that have more in common with the ECR political profile than the views of EPP President Manfred Weber. Citing his conversations with the EPP lawmakers he said there are voices among the Christian Democrats that the current EU policies must change, which would certainly reflect in the new Parliament.  Many EPP MEPs admit, for example, that the current policy regarding the European Green Deal “was implemented too quickly and ill-considered, with insufficient attention to the interests of industry, agriculture or energy security,” the PiS lawmaker said.

Krasnodębski did not rule out collaboration with the Socialists on certain matters, “especially the ones from our region, but also from Western countries.”  However, much will depend on the attitudes of parties such as the EPP or S&D, he admitted.

“Today, their views are much more consistent with the ECR’s than they were before the pandemic and before the full-scale war in Ukraine, when many members of these parties tended to be too optimistic about the situation in the world and the future of Europe.”

Krasnodębski even imagines a wide right-wing coalition with both the EPP and the Identity and Democracy group “under certain circumstances.” He cited the Italian case, where Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI, ECR) rule in coalition with Antonio Tajani’s Forza Italia (EPP) and Matteo Salvini’s League (ID). The red lines are a strongly pro-Kremlin stance and what Krasnodębski called “reviving of totalitarian traditions in Europe.”

“We certainly can't imagine collaboration with the German AfD, but I think we could consider some cooperation with Marine Le Pen, who has recently moved her party slightly to the centre,” he said.

Poland is a contrasting case regarding the relations between the EPP and ECR to what can be observed in Italy, sociologist and political expert Jarosław Flis, professor at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, told While both the Polish EPP parties, Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform (PO), and Polish People's Party (PSL), belong to the new wide ruling coalition, PiS is currently the biggest opposition party.

“It is quite specific that the EPP and ECR member parties belong to the contrary camps and have harsh attitude to one another,” he stressed, referring to the long-standing conflict between PO and PiS, the two parties that have dominated the Polish political scene for the last decades.

Krasnodębski admitted that conflict to be “some obstacle” to cooperation between the EPP and ECR.

“The ruling PO and PSL parties present themselves as pro-democratic, but they strive to eliminate the parties from political life, which would be very bad not only for Poland, but also for the European Union,” he said. 

“Democracy in the EU is based on competition between different programs.  In Poland, it is mainly a competition between the PO and its allies and Law and Justice. These are two blocs that have the right to exist and compete on the political scene.” 

When PiS was in power until last December, “we never said that there should be no opposition in Poland,” Krasnodębski insisted.

“So there is an obstacle, but we will see to what extent it will manifest itself at the EU level. We don't rule anything out.”


Earlier this year, Viktor Orbán told Italian media that Fidesz plans to align with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) after the 2024 European Parliament elections. Nonetheless, this potential affiliation faces resistance from the Czech Civic Democrats (ODS), one of the ECR founding parties and the only Czech political party represented in the group. 

"Fidesz does not belong to ECR Group, and it is completely out of the question for me and many of us in the group," MEP Vrecionová (ODS, ECR) asserted on X in February 2024.

In a further critique, Vrecionová, who serves as the ODS coordinator in the European Parliament, highlighted: “We really do not need a handler in the group who has been blackmailing the rest of the EU over Ukraine for the last two years. Orbán has nothing in common with the values of the ECR Group.”

The primary contention between the ODS and Fidesz stems from their differing stances towards Russia and Ukraine. The Czech conservatives maintain a robust opposition to Russia and actively support Ukraine in various capacities—militarily, financially, and politically. In contrast, Fidesz members continue to engage with Moscow and attempt to undermine support for Ukraine.

According to Czech MEP and ODS leader for EU elections Alexandr Vondra, ECR has potential to grow with the upcoming EU elections.

“Although the British unfortunately left the Union five years ago, our group has a real chance of becoming the third strongest in Europe after the elections,” Vondra said on April’s congress of the ODS party.

“We were in the minority in a predominantly green-socialist parliament. Now is the chance to change that. I believe that the outcome of the elections, not only here but elsewhere in Europe, will strengthen the position of parties to the right of centre,” Vondra added.

The Czech ODS party is in favour of cooperation with other parties, especially with the EPP. ODS is even running for the European Parliament in coalition with two parties from the EPP (TOP 09 and KDU-ČSL). There has also been speculation that the ODS could switch to the EPP, but none of the prominent members have publicly supported such a possibility.

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