Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party was left isolated in the EPP, the group's chair Manfred Weber has told Euronews after Fidesz quit the grouping on Wednesday.
Orban pulled his party out of the conservative European People’s Party - which is the biggest in the European Parliament - due to changes to its internal rules.
Those changes, which were voted in on Wednesday, allow the party to suspend entire political parties rather than just individual MEPs.
“I'm a bridge-builder. I always try to unite Europe to bring everybody on board, to bring everybody together. That is my nature and that is also the nature of Europe,” Weber said.
“And that's why for me, it's been a very sad day because we couldn't manage this anymore. But the substance was finally too problematic.”
Orban resigned his party from the EPP in a letter to Weber on Wednesday, claiming the reforms were “clearly a hostile move against Fidesz".
Hungary has been at odds with the European Union over its rule of law, as well as judicial and media independence.
Among other things, “it was about the rule of law mechanism, which we discussed last year at the European level, where Viktor Orban opposed this concept”, Weber said.
“It gives us a clear indication that we cannot continue with this bridge-building aspect.
“Again, I'm sad about this, but it is the reality. Today, the Fidesz delegation decided to leave the EPP group. First of all, the decision of Budapest. We respect this.”
The rule of law mechanism links funding from Brussels to rule of law being respected in member states.
Weber said “everybody knows” there were delegates in the EPP who wanted Fidesz expelled.
“It's obvious that Viktor Orban and Fidesz are isolated inside of the EPP family. That is also one of the signals of today," he added.
“This debate about rule of law was a game-changer because that is deeply rooted in the heart of a lot of MEPs from the EPP group," according to Weber.
“I promised it during the election campaign to establish such an independent rule of law mechanism because the rule of law is fundamental for the European Union."