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Pressure mounting on Hungary after Juncker-Soros billboard campaign

Nine member organisations of the European People’s Party want to oust Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party from the group.

Published: March 2, 2019, 9:09 am

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    On Friday evening, the New Democracy party from Greece, announced their support for excluding Fidesz.

    The parties concerned are the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V), the Wallonia Humanist Democratic Center party (cdH), the Christian Social People’s Party of Luxembourg, Portugal’s CDS-People’s Party, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) of Netherlands, the Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats (KD) of Sweden and the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) of Finland.

    The move to kick Orban out of their European Union EPP umbrella group, could impact European elections in May.

    The Luxembourg and two Belgian member parties wrote to the presidency asking for Orban’s Fidesz to be excluded because the Hungarian leader “has been acting in striking contradiction” with EPP values, AP reported.

    According to the EPP’s Statues, “the suspension and the exclusion of a member may only be decided by the Political Assembly,” which will be meeting on March 20 in Brussels, before the summit of the European Council.

    “A proposal for the exclusion of a member may only be submitted by the Presidency, or seven Ordinary or Associated Member Parties from five different countries”.

    Manfred Weber, the group leader and Spitzenkandidat of the EPP told Der Spiegel on Friday that “all options are on the table”.

    The main thrust of the mounting campaign against Orban, has been the Hungarian government’s billboard campaign, which depicts Jean-Claude Juncker together with George Soros.

    Orban launched a campaign against EPP member and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for being far too lax when it comes to immigration and accusing him of opening up the EU borders to unchecked migration. The debate will last at least until the European election on May.

    “With his comments and his poster campaign, Viktor Orban has seriously damaged the EPP,” Weber said, adding that he expects Hungary’s prime minister “to apologise and end the campaign”.

    In an interview with public television on Friday, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto was asked about the latest developments. Szijjarto said Hungary had already said back then that immigration was not the solution, but the debate has now intensified.

    At stake in the upcoming European parliamentary elections was whether the EP would be controlled by a pro-migration or anti-migration majority, the Foreign Minister explained.

    The EPP was not immune to disagreements on the issue of migration, pointing out that debates within the group on whether Europe’s demographic challenges and labour shortages should be resolved through immigration dated back to 2011.

    The European Commission on Thursday published a formal reply to the Hungarian government’s billboard campaign featuring Juncker and Soros, claiming that the Commission is threatening Hungarians’ security.

    The European Commission called the billboard a “fiction” and accused the Hungarian government of distorting the truth because it “seeks to paint a dark picture of a secret plot to drive more migration to Europe”.

    The EC said that there was no conspiracy. “The claims made by the Hungarian government are at worst downright factually incorrect or at best highly misleading. And none of it has anything to do with George Soros,” the Commission emphasized in a document (in English and Hungarian).

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