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Viktor Orbán threatens new Europe grouping to rival 'weaker' EPP

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Viktor Orban insisted he didn't have "Soros-phobia"
Viktor Orban insisted he didn't have "Soros-phobia"   -   Copyright  AP
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to create a new European right-wing movement “to balance Macron” and called for the EU to back the United States on foreign policy as he faced questions at his annual news conference.

The Fidesz party leader praised US President Donald Trump and British PM Boris Johnson as “young” and “courageous” leaders, praising their response to Iran compared to the EU which had been “not clear” on the issue.

The anti-immigration nationalist also railed against a familiar enemy, George Soros, alleging: "In every single European institution there are politicians influenced by George Soros."

Not all journalists were allowed to attend the news conference, in Budapest.

In other key points, Orbán said:

  • Infertility treatment will be free in the future — but only for Hungarians.
  • A chance had been missed to create conservative climate policy; Hungarian green politicians are like watermelons — green outside but red inside.
  • Brexit will be a success story.
  • Europe needs nuclear energy.
  • Hungary will keep troops stationed in Iraq as long as it agrees.
  • Carpathian Basin can produce food and clean water for Hungary after climate change.
  • Doctors and nurses will get a big pay rise to keep them in Hungary.

EPP ‘getting weaker’

Orbán said the EPP grouping, from which he was banned last year after publishing an election poster suggesting Jean-Claude Juncker was under the control of Soros, was becoming too "liberal" and "socialist."

"The European People’s Party is shrinking, losing influence, losing positions, losing seats, getting weaker and weaker," he said. "And the reason of that is that the direction we are following is bad ... we are getting more and more liberal, socialist and centrist, we do not preserve and defend our original values.

“If EPP is not able to change itself … we will initiate something new in EU politics to balance [French president Emmanuel Macron],” Orbán said. “We will have the answer in the coming weeks.”

Pivot to Trump

Hungary would like the European stance on the US-Iran conflict to be closer to that of Israel and the United States, he said.

"I would like for the European stance, which is not clear on this Iranian issue, to be oriented towards the Israeli-United States stance.”

EU foreign ministers will meet on Friday in Brussels to discuss the Iran crisis, with a focus on easing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Orbán said Hungary will keep its troops stationed in Iraq as long as Baghdad stands by the agreement between the two governments.

Hungary has been a member of NATO since 1999 and currently has about 150 troops in Iraq's Kurdish region.

George Soros 'big force' in the EU

On his familiar bogeyman George Soros, Orbán said the philanthropist was “a talented Hungarian man” but added: “We regret that he is not with us, but against us.”

He insisted he was not guilty of “Soros-phobia” but spoke about Soros for several minutes, claiming the billionaire was “a big force” financed by the EU.

He also brushed off questions about why some media organisations were banned from the news conference — a sore subject in a country where media plurality has been sharply curtailed by Orbán's government.

“80% of journalists in room would vote against me,” he shrugged.

He also dismissed a question about the success of the main opposition party in cities including Budapest.

"It would not surprise me that Hungary is a democracy," he said.

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