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Macron accuses Hungarian, Polish leaders of 'lying' about EU


Bratislava (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday went from measured criticism against Hungary and Poland to anger, accusing their leaders "lying" to their people about the European Union.

"In Hungary and Poland, some of their leaders played with an unacceptable idea. When I listen to leaders comparing Brussels with Moscow at the ancient (Soviet) times, this is crazy and unacceptable," Macron told a pro-European audience at a public meeting during a visit to the Slovak capital Bratislava.

"They are lying to their people," Macron fumed, speaking in English.

"When I see big billboards saying 'No Brussels' or 'Stop Brussels'. What are they doing?" Macron said, insisting that the political success of eurosceptic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his nationalist Fidesz party is rooted in the prosperity that EU structural subsidies brought to Hungary after the ex-communist state joined the bloc in 2004.

"What are these leaders doing with these crazy spirits and lying to their people like those who promoted the Brexit and left the country right after they won," he added.

In an interview published in Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak media earlier on Friday, the French leader adopted a more measured tone warning eastern EU members not to fall out of step with the bloc's principles, singling out Hungary and Poland whose nationalist governments have clashed with Brussels.

Macron also insisted that "Europe is not a supermarket", driving home a point he made previously that eastern states could not pick and choose among the bloc's fundamental values.

- 'Reciprocal commitment' -

Seven months ahead of elections to the European Parliament, Macron said he expected the campaign ahead of the vote to be a duel between "progressives" and nationalists.

During a two-day visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Macron also warned that any moves by member states to reduce their payments into the common budget could serve to undermine EU unity, including its single market.

"We cannot try to reduce our contribution to the European budget without understanding what the single market brings. If we want to kill Europe, we should continue like this," Macron said.

"Europe isn't a one-way street: it is a reciprocal commitment," he added.

Turning to Poland's controversial judicial reforms, Macron said he hoped that "the Polish government will take the necessary steps to address the concerns of the (European) Commission and its partners."

Its nationalist government has put Poland on a collision course with the European Union by introducing a string of controversial judicial reforms that the bloc has warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.

The French leader also noted that "the situation of the rule of law in Hungary is undergoing worrying developments", and pointed to threats to the division of powers and the independence of non-governmental organisations.

He also condemned the February murder of a journalist in Slovakia, insisting that "threatening, attacking or killing journalists undermines the foundations of our democracies".

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