Orban says Fidesz may leave EPP, look at Poland for alliance

File photo. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the walk in the Royal Lazienki Park in Warsaw, Poland, 14 May 2018. [Jacek Turczyk/EPA/EFE]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday (8 March) his ruling nationalist Fidesz party may drop out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) amid a row over his government’s anti-Brussels media campaign.

On Tuesday EPP group leader Manfred Weber demanded Fidesz take down billboards attacking European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker which were part of its campaign ahead of European Parliament elections in May.

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Manfred …

Orbán’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyás later said the posters would be replaced next week by others touting Orbán’s plans to lift the birth rate and that Fidesz wanted to stay in the EPP.

Speaking to public radio, Orbán said he would still prefer to reform the EPP, swinging it towards an anti-immigration platform, but also raised the prospect of Fidesz quitting the EPP, which will meet on 20 March to discuss the matter.

“The debate may end up with (Fidesz) finding its place not within but outside the People’s Party,” Orbán said in an interview. “If we need to start something new … then obviously the first place to hold talks will be in Poland.”

Orbán noted that Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is not a member of the EPP.

He said he talked with both Juncker and Weber on Thursday and on Sunday he planned to visit Poland, a major regional ally.

Warsaw and Budapest have previously vowed to block any sanctions against either eastern European Union member state over what critics see as a backsliding on democratic standards.

Orbán said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki would visit Budapest on the 15 March national holiday next week, when Orbán is due to hold a memorial speech he has often laced with criticism of Brussels.

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The head of the PiS party, Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s de facto leader, is Orbán’s ally and the two have met occasionally to discuss European affairs.

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