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Orban takes aim at 'pro-immigration' Macron after European op-ed

AFP archive | Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacted to French President Emmanuel Macron’s op-ed on European reform by calling for a “serious European debate” over what he considers the bloc’s top issue: immigration.

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In an op-edpublished for Tuesday's newspapers throughout the bloc, Macron advised voters in the May 23-26 European Union parliament elections to reject nationalist parties that "offer nothing," laying down the battle lines for the vote.

>> Read the full text of Macron’s address

In an emailed statement to the Reuters news agency, Orban apparently welcomed Macron’s call for talks on reforming the EU.

“This could mark the beginning of a serious European debate... In the details, of course, we have differences of views, but far more important than these differing opinions is that this initiative be a good start to a serious and constructive dialogue on the future of Europe", said the Hungarian leader.

Playing the immigration card

But in another statement, Orban’s office slammed the French leader for being a "pro-immigration politician" attacking those who are opposed to immigration.

The Hungarian government said "Macron ... believes immigration is good. We believe it is bad".

Orban's office also accused Macron of censorship, claiming he called for the banning of "posters of the opponents of immigration".

In recent weeks, the Hungarian government has been waging a media campaign against EU leaders and their supposedly pro-immigration position. Billboards and ads show European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros above the caption "You, too, have the right to know what Brussels is planning to do."

The media campaign against EU leaders is fuelling calls to exclude or suspend Orban’s party, Fidesz, from the European Parliament's main centre-right group.

Representatives from other right-wing political parties across the EU are set to discuss the matter in a meeting of the European people’s Party on March 20.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

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