Hungarian MEP resigns over lockdown party

Brussels (AFP) –


A conservative Hungarian MEP and close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban apologised Tuesday after Belgian police caught him fleeing a lockdown-busting party that local press described as an orgy.

Jozsef Szajer, who helped write Hungary's constitution, resigned over the weekend for what he said were "personal reasons" but admitted on Tuesday he had received a police caution and was found in possession of ecstasy.

Brussels prosecutors told AFP that 20 men were caught at a city centre party on Friday and fined 250 euros each.

Aside from the MEP, two guests invoked diplomatic immunity. Local press called it a "sex party" in an apartment in a quarter of the historic centre known pre-lockdown for its gay bars.

Szajer, 59, made no reference to sexual activity and denied taking drugs or knowing about the ecstasy pill found on him, but he apologised to his family for breaking Covid-19 restrictions.

The Brussels prosecutor's office said a suspect identified by Szajer's birth year and initials was arrested after a passer-by reported seeing a man "fleeing along the gutter".

"The man's hands were bloody. It is possible that he may have been injured while fleeing," the statement said.

"Narcotics were found in his backpack. The man was unable to produce any identity documents. A report was also drawn up for S.J. for violation of the narcotics legislation."

But there will be no prosecution unless the European Parliament is persuaded to waive the MEP's immunity.

"I was present," Szajer admitted, in a statement distributed by his conservative political group the EPP.

"After the police asked for my identity -- since I did not have ID on me -- I declared that I was a MEP. The police continued the process and finally issued an official verbal warning and transported me home.

"I deeply regret violating the COVID restrictions, it was irresponsible on my part. I am ready to stand for the fine that occurs," he said.

Szajer has been elected four times to the Hungarian parliament between 1990 and 2002, and four times to the European Parliament since 2004.

- 'Family survival' -

His party, Orban's Fidesz, called him "the best-known and most-recognised Hungarian member of the European Parliament".

On Saturday, Szajer resigned as an MEP effective December 31, but said it "has nothing to do with the current, animated policy debate taking place on the European level".

This was a reference to the deadlock between Hungary and Brussels over its controversial veto along with Poland of the bloc’s long-term budget and coronavirus recovery fund.

Szajer had also served as a vice chair and chief whip of the EPP conservative grouping in the assembly, and as chairman of the Fidesz delegation, he was also in charge of the contact between his party and the group.

The EPP suspended the membership of the Hungarian conservative party in the group in March 2019 amid controversy over Orban's increasingly authoritarian rule and crackdown on independent press and NGOs.

After Orban came to power in 2010 Szajer was put in charge of drafting a new constitution, which he said he partly wrote on an Apple iPad on the train between Brussels and Strasbourg.

The socially conservative text sparked controversy, including a definition of "the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman" as well as "the basis of the family and national survival".

Szajer insisted: "The misstep is strictly personal, I am the only who owes responsibility for it. I ask everyone not to extend it to my homeland, or to my political community."