February 19, 2019 / 6:47 PM / a year ago

Hungary's ruling party doesn't belong in Europe's centre-right - Juncker

FILE PHOTO: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attends weekly College of Commissioners meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Februray 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BERLIN (Reuters) - The party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban should leave the mainstream European centre-right grouping, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, comparing Orban to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The unusually sharp comments, made at a public meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, came after the Hungarian government unveiled a new poster campaign accusing Juncker and philanthropist George Soros of wanting to flood Hungary with migrants.

“Against lies there’s not much you can do,” Juncker replied, adding that Manfred Weber, the European Peoples Party’s lead candidate for the upcoming European elections, would certainly be asking himself “if I need this voice” in the EPP.

Calls have been growing for Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party to be expelled from the EPP, which groups Christian Democratic and centre-right parties in the European Parliament, because of Fidesz’s stridently anti-immigration campaigns.

Fidesz’s domestic strength, however, means it has a large delegation in the European legislature, and its removal from the EPP umbrella could erode the centre-right’s current dominance of the Strasbourg parliament.

Juncker, previously the longtime centre-right prime minister of Luxembourg, said he had called for Fidesz’s exclusion from the EPP.

“They didn’t vote for me in the European Parliament,” he said. “The far right didn’t either. I remember Ms. Le Pen, she said ‘I’m not voting for you.’ I said: ‘I don’t want your vote.’ There are certain votes you just don’t want.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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