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BREAKING NEWS

Orban says Fidesz may leave EPP and seek alliance with Poland's ruling party

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on February 10, 2019.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on February 10, 2019. -
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REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that his Fidesz party may leave the European Union's main conservative group and instead seek an alliance with Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS).

The firebrand leader nonetheless said he'd rather Fidesz stay in the European People Party (EPP) so it can "restructure and reform" it from inside to allow "anti-immigration forces" in it.

"The debate may end up with (Fidesz) finding its place not within but outside the People's Party.

"If we need to start something new...then obviously the first place to hold talks will be in Poland," Orban added.

'Orban overstepped the red line'

The Hungarian leader's comments — made during his regular address on Kossuth Radio — come just days after EPP President, Joseph Paul, said that Fidesz's membership would be discussed at the group's next meeting on March 20 which could lead to its expulsion.

Paul said 12 different parties from nine member states had written to him to complain after Fidesz launched anti-migration billboards featuring the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian American billionaire Georges Soros.

"The European People’s Party is a big family, which can have its differences. But there is a limit and Viktor Orbán overstepped the red line," Paul said in an interview with Germany's Die Welt.

The EPP is the largest group in the European parliament and describes itself as the "political family of the centre-right." Fidesz, a eurosceptic, populist party, has increasingly come to loggerheads with the rest of the EPP over its migration stance.

Article 7

Orban is scheduled to travel to Poland on Sunday while Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is expected to visit Budapest on March 15.

The two countries are allies in so far as they have both drawn the anger of Brussels in recent years.

Last year, the EU triggered "Article 7" proceedings against Budapest after a report accused it of various breaches of EU values citing migrant abuse; restrictions on press freedom; corruption and conflicts of interest; and "stereotypical attitudes" towards women, among other concerns.

The motion was triggered in a vote in the EU Parliament with 448 votes in favour, 197 against and 48 abstentions.

The same procedure was launched by the European Commission against Poland in December 2017.

Unlike Fidesz, Poland's ruling party, the Pis, does not belong to the EPP but to the eurosceptic, anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists group.

'Common ideas'

Manfred Weber, a member of Germany's Christian Social Union — currently in a coalition with Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union — and tipped to replace Juncker as European Commission President later this year said it's up to Orban to decide what group he wants to be in at the European parliament.

"We are a political family of values, we are a political family that has common ideas, and everybody who is based on these common ideas can stay...others can leave or must be kicked out if this is not accepted anymore," Weber added.

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is running in May's European elections, said in a statement that his party, Forza Italia, a member of the EPP, "cannot vote in favour of the exclusion of Orban, who has been a dear friend of mine for many years."

He argued Fidesz's exclusion would help EPP's opponents.