Hungarian leader may turn to Polish party in EU Parliament

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister said Friday he would seek to form an alliance with Poland’s populist ruling party if his governing Fidesz party is ousted from the main center-right group in the European Parliament.

The European People’s Party is expected to make a decision on Fidesz’s status on March 20. About a dozen smaller parties within the bloc called for the Hungarian party’s ouster because of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s tough anti-immigration stance and perceived contradictions with the group’s Christian Democratic values.

“It’s possible this debate will end in a way that our place is not in the People’s Party, but outside it,” Orban said on state radio.

While Orban has often been at loggerheads with the European Union and the EPP since his return to power in 2010, his government’s current ad campaign against EU migration policies provoked intense criticism. The posters and billboards depict European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is part of the EEP, as advocating for mass migration into Europe.

Orban said he preferred to stay in the EPP, but wanted it changed.

“I’d rather prefer to achieve ... the transformation of the People’s Party so there is room inside it for anti-immigration forces like us,” Orban said. “Whatever happens in the future, no compromise is imaginable regarding the protection of Christian culture and immigration.”

If Fidesz is expelled, “then the first place we will hold talks is in Poland.”

Poland’s governing populist Law and Justice Party is not in the EPP, and Orban has a close relationship with Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The EU has put Hungary and Poland under the microscope because of concerns about the rule of law and democratic values. Both countries have vowed to veto any possible EU sanctions against the other.

EPP group leader Manfred Weber, also the EPP candidate to succeed Juncker after May’s European Parliament election, has set conditions for Fidesz to remain in the bloc.

They include ending the anti-Juncker campaign — which the government said it will do by March 15 — apologizing for the ads, and ensuring that Central European University, founded by George Soros, who appears with Juncker on the billboards, can keep all of its activities in Budapest.