Orban attacks Juncker, Weber in EU poll campaign launch

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban slammed current European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's record in office, saying: "The English are going, and the migrants are coming" (AFP Photo/PETER KOHALMI) (AFP)

Budapest (AFP) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban once again attacked key figures from the same centre-right group of European parties Friday as he launched his own campaign for May's key European parliament poll.

He slammed current European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's record in office, saying: "The English are going, and the migrants are coming."

Last month Fidesz was indefinitely suspended from the mainstream conservative European People's Party (EPP), the EU's biggest and most influential political grouping, over a billboard campaign by Budapest that attacked Juncker.

After receiving criticism for the campaign, Orban apologised for insulting EPP partners and has also previously expressed support for the bloc's lead candidate for May's elections, Manfred Weber.

Weber has recently criticised Fidesz and last week told German broadcaster ZDF that he "would not accept the post" of commission president if he had to depend on Fidesz votes.

On Friday Orban took aim at Weber as well, saying that he had "offended Hungarians".

"It’s no wonder that more and more people are saying and writing: 'Out with him (Weber)'," Orban told party members at the event in Budapest.

Orban went on to insist that "leaders who oppose immigration should be leading the EU institutions".

Juncker's term in office, as well as that of EU Council President Donald Tusk, will end later on this year.

He also hinted Fidesz may leave the EPP of its own accord after May's poll.

"We will decide our own future," said Orban on Friday.

"After the election we will see where the EPP moves, if it is to the left and liberal direction,... then we won't follow them," he added, to applause from the crowd.

During the speech Orban also blasted "bureaucrats living in a Brussels bubble" whose aim he said was the creation of "United States of Europe".

"The handling of migration must be removed from Brussels bureaucrats, and given back to national governments," he added.

He also attacked migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos -- who also hails from the EPP -- saying his policies amount to "a total population replacement programme", echoing a far-right trope.

The firebrand said "the existence of Christian civilisation is at stake" at the May 26 vote.

The campaign which attracted criticism from within the EPP suggested that Juncker and liberal Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros were plotting to flood Europe with migrants.

In recent weeks Orban has signalled a willingness to create a rival group in the European Parliament comprising allies to the right of the EPP.

Last month he said Fidesz would first approach Poland's governing right-wing PiS party if it ever left the mainstream bloc.

He has also heaped praise on Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's anti-immigrant League party.

At the last elections in 2014 Fidesz won 12 out of Hungary's 21 mandates for the European assembly.

Polls indicate the party is likely to increase its total by one or two seats.