The European Union executive accused Hungary’s nationalist government on Monday of distorting the truth about immigration into the bloc, marking a further deterioration in their troubled relationship ahead of European Parliament elections in May.
The EU has long been critical of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s stance on migrants and his record on democratic freedoms. Orban says the EU has imperilled Europe’s Christian civilisation by allowing mass immigration.
Orban has recently stepped up his anti-immigration campaign with billboards and inserts in state media that vilify European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros, accusing them of being in cahoots to bring large numbers of Muslim immigrants into Europe.
“The Commission has been unambiguous about our opinion of the Hungarian government campaign that distorts the truth and seeks to paint a dark picture of a secret plot to drive more migration to Europe, allegedly,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news briefing.
The Hungarian campaign has triggered renewed calls to expel Orban’s ruling Fidesz party from the biggest group in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP). The EPP will discuss the issue on March 20.
The EPP’s candidate to head the next European Commission, senior German lawmaker Manfred Weber, has said he no longer rules out expelling Fidesz.
“Viktor Orban has severely damaged the EPP with his statements and poster campaign,” Weber told the German weekly Spiegel in a weekend interview. “That’s why I expect him to apologise and end the action.”