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Hungary's Orban faces threat of exclusion from European centre-right partners

Hannibal Hanschke, Reuters | Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on July 4, 2018.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is seeing growing opposition from partner centre-right parties in the European Parliament, a revolt that has the potential to impact upon May’s elections.

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Several Christian Democrat parties have voiced their opposition to the continued membership of the EPP umbrella group of Orban’s Fidesz party. In recent years, Orban has been strongly identified with anti-migrant rhetoric.

One party from Luxembourg and two from Belgium wrote in a letter to the grouping’s presidency asking for Fidesz to be excluded because the Hungarian leader “has been acting in striking contradiction” with the EPP’s Christian Democrat values.

The EPP, they said, was too important “to be undermined within our own ranks by what we are so determined to fight: nationalism-based populism and open hostility against European integration”.

Dutch and Portuguese parties have echoed that complaint, which has swelled over recent months – that Orban is too far to the political right of traditional Christian Democrat values.

Maxime Prévot, the leader of the Belgian francophone CdH said Friday that “the excesses of Orban were no longer admissible and can no longer be supported”.

Orban’s stance on migrants from conflict zones has alarmed many within the group. He has accused European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is part of the EPP, for being too lax on immigration. Orban has plastered Budapest with posters showing Juncker as a gloating force of evil. The campaign has accused Juncker and US philanthropist George Soros of allegedly supporting illegal migration.

'Distorts the truth'

Juncker’s Commission issued a rebuttal on Thursday against Orban’s allegations – hardly the unity the grouping wants to display three months ahead of elections.

It said the campaign “distorts the truth” with billboards, newspaper ads and Orban’s letter to Hungarians alleging a Juncker-Soros plot.

“The claims made by the Hungarian government are at worst downright factually incorrect, or at best highly misleading,” the commission said in its seven-point rebuttal.

“And none of it has anything to do with George Soros,” added the statement posted online and via Twitter.

Dutch Christian Democrat leader Rutger Ploum said “recent events have shown that informal talks with Fidesz no longer have the desired effect”.

And Portugal’s CDS/PP party said in a letter to the EPP presidency that the differences with Fidesz “are too substantial” for Orban’s party to remain inside the group.

Orban hopes anti-migration forces will become a majority in all EU institutions, including the European Parliament and EU Commission, the bloc’s executive body.

Top officials from the EPP are set to discuss Orban’s position in the run-up to the March 21-22 European Council summit in Brussels.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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