Hungary's Orban mulls alliance with right-wing Polish faction


Budapest (AFP)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday that his party could opt to abandon conservative allies in the European Parliament and seek to join up with Poland's right-wing faction in a spat over an anti-EU billboard campaign.

The firebrand nationalist leader said he would still prefer "to restructure and reform" the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) from inside to make room for more "anti-immigration forces" in it.

"But obviously if we have to start something new, then the first place where we'll start negotiations will be Poland," which is governed since 2015 by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

After months of rising tensions between Brussels and Budapest, the EPP's Manfred Weber this week laid down three conditions for Orban's party, Fidesz, to remain a member of the grouping.

One was that Hungary end its "fake news campaign" against European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, referring to a poster which suggested that he and billionaire George Soros were actively supporting illegal immigration.

A top Orban aide said Thursday that the posters would be replaced later this month.

Weber on a visit to Warsaw said Friday that Orban was free to leave the grouping.

"It's his decision. Nobody is forced to stay. Fidesz is invited but the EPP is based on common ideas and values," he said.

Orban said he spoke Thursday with both Juncker and Weber, the EPP's leading candidate to replace Juncker in May's European elections.

On Sunday he will be in Poland to take part in a commemoration marking the countries' NATO membership with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who in turn will give a speech on March 15 in Hungary at the country's national day ceremony.

Poland and Hungary are allies in battles with EU institutions over their anti-migrant stance and drive for a more decentralised union with greater powers for member states.

The EPP is the biggest party in the European Parliament and comprises the main centre-right movements in Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and France's Les Republicains.

On Thursday, Magyar Nemzet, a daily widely seen as a mouthpiece of Orban's Fidesz, urged the party to quit the EPP -- denouncing interactions with it as "humiliating" -- and to forge an alliance within the European Parliament with eurosceptic factions from Italy, Austria and Poland.