Hungary's Orban faces EPP suspension after insults


Brussels (AFP)

The Fidesz party of firebrand Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will be hit with a temporary suspension from the European People's Party, EPP sources said Wednesday.

Fidesz had faced expulsion after running a controversial billboard campaign that accused European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and liberal US billionaire George Soros, a bete-noir of Orban, of plotting to flood Europe with migrants.

The campaign has since been dropped and Orban has apologised for insulting partners from the EPP -- the conservative group in the European Parliament -- though the party leadership had warned this was not enough.

The EPP, which brings together the EU's main centre-right parties, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU or the Republicans in France, will decide on a temporary suspension of Orban's party, the Fidesz, a source close to EPP parliamentary leader Manfred Weber said.

"The political assembly will vote on the proposal that Fidesz will lose the right to vote in all party meetings and the right to propose candidates for posts," the source told AFP.

In addition, the source said monitoring of the case will be handled by former EU Council president Herman van Rompuy, who is also a former Belgian prime minister.

The formal decision is expected in the late afternoon on Wednesday after a meeting in Brussels.

In an interview on Wednesday, Juncker, who won the EU's top office for the EPP in 2014, once again called for the Fidesz to be excluded.

"For years (Orban's party) has been moving away from Christian Democratic values," Juncker told German radio Deutschlandfunk. Therefore "his place is outside the EPP".

Sanctioning Orban has split the EPP, amid concern that the Hungarian leader will team up with Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League, to create a rival group in European Parliament.

Faced with tough EU elections in May, some EPP members are also worried that punishing Orban will cost them support from anti-immigrant voters who back Orban's tough line.