BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s Fidesz party could join a new grouping in the European parliament if staying in the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) does not fit with national interests, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.
Fidesz was suspended from the EPP in March over Orban’s record on respect for the rule of law, freedom of the press and rights for minorities but could be expelled by the group or choose to join another bloc as the groupings take shape after the elections to the European Parliament.
“We are members of the EPP right now and we will see which direction the EPP goes ... whether we can influence it and whether it is in line with the interests of Hungary and the Hungarian people,” Orban said.
“If yes, then we will stay, if not, we will sit in a new formation,” he said.
He did not say which alternative grouping Fidesz could join, but Orban has long been courting far-right leaders.
The EPP won the EU parliamentary election but with a shrinking share of seats, which obliges it to form a coalition with at least two other groups to obtain a majority.
Orban’s foreign minister said last week if the EPP struck an alliance with pro-migration parties, that would be a “red line”.
EPP officials were not immediately available on Friday but two senior EPP members told Reuters prior to Orban’s comments that he had been urged to stick to a pro-European course.
“Orban has been our ‘enfant terrible’ but that doesn’t mean he cannot mend his ways. His suspension doesn’t automatically mean his expulsion (from the EPP group),” one official said.
On Thursday, Hungary unexpectedly announced the indefinite suspension of a new administrative court system, backtracking on a reform that had raised concerns over judicial independence.
Orban also told radio the Visegrad four group in the European Union — Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — had agreed to take a common stance in selecting new EU leaders.
“We will have a unified stance in personnel issues,” he said, without identifying who they would support.
Regarding a new president of the European Commission, he said he would support a candidate who was anti-immigration, had “national feelings” and was “ready to defend” Christian culture.
He said that they had more than one candidate in mind.
Fidesz won more than 52% of votes in Hungary in the European parliamentary election on a hardline anti-immigration platform.
Reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Edmund Blair and Alison Williams