Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has threatened to pull his Fidesz party from the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament if the conservative bloc approves new internal rules this week.
Orban issued the ultimatum on February 28 in a letter to Manfred Weber, the German politician who heads the conservative EPP bloc, the largest faction in the European Parliament.
The EPP parliamentary group, which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, has been squabbling with Fidesz for years.
Fidesz has been suspended from the EPP since 2018, but it still has 11 lawmakers in the EPP group in the European Parliament.
The EU has long accused Orban of undermining democratic freedoms, the media, nongovernmental organizations, and the rule of law.
Last week, the EPP proposed changes that would allow the Fidesz group to be suspended or excluded from the EPP bloc. The rules are expected to be approved by a majority vote on March 3.
The suspension could follow after the vote, if Fidesz does not withdraw first.
In the letter to Weber, Orban wrote that amending internal rules would lead to the "legally questionable suspension of our elected deputies in the EPP group.”
"If Fidesz is not welcome, then we do not feel obliged to remain in the group," said Orban, who is also the head of Fidesz.
Fidesz Vice Chairwoman Katalin Novak published the letter on Twitter.
Othmar Karas, an Austrian EPP lawmaker and vice president of the European Parliament, said the conservatives would charge ahead.
“We will not allow ourselves to be blackmailed. The regulations will be amended as planned,” Karas told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “I will not give up positioning the EPP group as the guardian of values and law in a credible way, internally as well.”