Orban win in Hungary brings headaches for Brussels

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April 9, 2018 10:20 am Published by

BRUSSELS (AFP) – 

The leading political group in the European Parliament congratulated Hungary’s Viktor Orban on his reelection Monday, but the anti-immigration populist’s victory looks set to prolong the fractious relationship between Brussels and Budapest.

The European Union has clashed repeatedly with Orban’s government during his first two terms as premier over a number of issues including Hungary’s crackdown on foreign-funded universities and NGOs, its hardline stance on migrants and alleged misuse of funding from the bloc.

Orban has been defiant in the face of EU criticism, and some observers say the fact his Fidesz party is part of the European People’s Party (EPP), the dominant force in the European Parliament, has given him cover in Brussels.

“Congratulations to Viktor and on their clear victory in the . I look forward to continuing working with you towards common solutions to our European challenges,” Manfred Weber, the head of the EPP bloc in the parliament, wrote on Twitter on Monday.

In the run-up to Sunday’s vote in Hungary, EPP President Joseph Daul tweeted a message wishing Fidesz “all the best” in the election, saying Orban would “continue to bring stability and prosperity”.

The EU has launched a battery of legal action against Orban’s government, taking it to the bloc’s top court over a crackdown on education and foreign-backed civil society groups that critics say targets US billionaire George Soros.

The European Commission has also brought a case against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic over their refusal to accept quotas for asylum seekers.

Left-leaning European Parliament groups condemned the fact that Orban’s crushing win on Sunday came after a campaign in which his tough anti-immigration stance featured prominently.

German MEP Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, of the Socialists and Democrats grouping, said Orban had been “very successful with a campaign of fear against migrants”.

“This is another bitter victory for populism at the expense of people seeking protection,” she said, calling on Weber’s CSU party to “talk straight to him, instead of flattering him with visits and invitations”.

The left-wing Greens slammed the EPP for backing and congratulating Orban when Hungary is facing legal action from the EU and the European Parliament is investigating whether Budapest is living up to its rule of law obligations.

© 2018 AFP

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