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Merkel voices 'full solidarity' with Juncker in Orban row

2 min

Berlin (AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday voiced full backing for European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in a widening row with Hungary's hardline Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Separately, Manfred Weber, the leading candidate of the European Parliament's dominant centre-right bloc EPP, also took Juncker's side in the rift roiling the conservative group.

Both Juncker and Orban's parties are part of the EPP, but the Hungarian government on Tuesday launched a new anti-immigration media campaign accusing the commission president and US philanthropist George Soros of allegedly supporting illegal migration.

As the direct attacks fuelled calls for Orban's Fidesz party to be expelled from the European People's Party (EPP) bloc ahead of May's European parliament elections, Merkel clearly voiced whose side she was on.

"Jean-Claude Juncker has my full solidarity and we will make that clear too in our talks with Hungary," the German leader told journalists.

Later Thursday, Weber of Merkel's Bavarian allies the CSU also warned Orban that "he is currently moving further away from the EPP."

Orban's latest campaign against Juncker has sparked "incomprehension and anger" within the EPP group of parties, Weber told Sueddeutsche daily, adding that "some formulations are unacceptable".

Orban cannot be part of the EPP while "campaigning against the EPP commission president in office," warned Weber, in a sharp change in tone vis-a-vis the Hungarian leader.

The leading German candidate of the EPP's election campaign had previously defended the bloc's decision to allow Orban's Fidesz to swell its ranks in the Strasbourg assembly.

Juncker had already said last year that Orban's party has no place in the EPP.

Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."

In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born Soros, 88, as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.

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