Hungary’s leader said he would not support German politician Manfred Weber in the upcoming EU parliamentary elections. Orban said the head of the conservative bloc in the European Parliament had offended Hungarians.
Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, said Monday that he would not support Manfred Weber as the lead conservative candidate to take over as president of the European Commission.
After meeting Austria’s far-right vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, Orban was asked about Weber’s recent comments slamming Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, which is currently suspended from Weber’s European People’s Party (EPP) bloc in the European parliament for its anti-EU campaigning.
“Weber would have been good for us as president of the commission,” Orban said, “but he made the statement that not only does he not need the Hungarian votes but he doesn’t even want the Hungarian votes to become commission president.”
“That is such an offense to Hungary and the Hungarian voters,” he added.
Orban expected to leave EPP
The EPP, which Weber leads, is currently the largest group in parliament, and if it stays that way after May’s EU elections, it will get to name the next president of the European Commission.
The head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Germany, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, told Reuters late Monday that she expected Orban’s party to leave the EPP.
“With his behaviour in the last few days and the meeting with (Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini), he has given a clear sign that he will leave,” she said.
Orban’s meeting with Strache came just days after the vice chancellor was condemned for using the racist phrase “population replacement” to refer to non-white immigration.
Both leaders used the opportunity to praise other right-wing parties across Europe and condemn leftists as “intolerant.”
Orban began by praising the current government of Austria, where Strache’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), which was started in the 1940s by former Nazis, is the junior coalition partner to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP).
He said that the previous left-wing administration in Vienna had “done everything” to stop Hungary from building a border fence during the migration wave of 2015, and said he wished that every nation in the EU would do a similar about-face on immigration.
“Deputy Chancellor Strache and the FPÖ were necessary for Austria to become opposed to immigration,” said Orban, according to his communications chief, Zoltan Kovacs.
Austria has introduced a number of draconian measures aimed at restricting non-white immigration since Kurz took office in 2017, such as seizing migrants’ phones and valuables at the border, and has refused to sign the UN’s Global Compact for Migration. Kurz has also supported Orban’s stauch opposition to plans to more evenly distribute migrants throughout the EU.
Both Strache and Orban praised their ethno-nationalist counterparts in Italy’s League party, as well as Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party. When asked where they would draw the line when cooperating with other right-wing groups, Strache said “we categorically reject all anti-Semites and fascists.”