Hungary's Viktor Orban pushes for anti-migrant bloc to counter France and Germany

Hungary's Viktor Orban hopes a right-wing alliance can help gain an anti-migrant majority in the European Parliament. The alliance was pitched by Italy's Matteo Salvini, whom Orban described as a "hero."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday pledged his full support for an Italian-Polish initiative to form a right-wing alliance for European Parliament elections due in May.

Orban said Hungary's goal was to gain an anti-immigrant majority in the European Parliament that he hoped would spread to the European Commission, and later, as national elections change the EU's political landscape, the European Council.

Read more: Is Viktor Orban the EU's hard-line hero or villain?

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said during a visit to Warsaw on Wednesday that Italy and Poland should join forces in a euroskeptic alliance, expressing hopes that an "Italian-Polish axis" would replace the current "French-German axis."

Politics | 05.11.2017

"The Polish-Italian or Warsaw-Rome alliance is one of the greatest developments that this year could have started with," Orban said, describing Salvini as a "hero" for stopping migration on Italy's shores.

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Muslim invaders'

"We don't see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders," Orban said in a recent interview with German daily Bild newspaper. The 54-year-old prime minister of Hungary added: "We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite." Multiculturalism, he said, "is only an illusion."

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'You wanted the migrants, we didn't'

When asked by Bild whether it was fair for Germany to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants while Hungary accepted none, Orban responded: "The difference is, you wanted the migrants, and we didn't." Migration, he said, threatens the "sovereignty and cultural identity" of Hungary.

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Migration is poison'

It was not the first time the Hungarian leader has framed migration as a problem for his country. In 2016, he said that Hungary "does not need a single migrant for the economy to work, or the population to sustain itself, or for the country to have a future." He added: "for us migration is not a solution but a problem ... not medicine but a poison, we don’t need it and won’t swallow it.”

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Importing homophobia'

Orban has repeatedly criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her decision to allow over a million migrants into Germany in the summer of 2015. Orban told Bild in early 2016: "If you take masses of non-registered immigrants from the Middle East into your country, you are importing terrorism, crime, anti-Semitism, and homophobia."

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'All terrorists are basically migrants'

Orban has also repeatedly criticized the EU for trying to get member states to share refugees based on national quotas. In a 2015 interview with POLITICO, he suggested the bloc's leaders instead focus more on strengthening the EU's external border. In the same interview, he said: "Of course it’s not accepted, but the factual point is that all the terrorists are basically migrants."

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Parallel societies'

Orban has found allies in other right-wing governments in eastern Europe such as Poland that also oppose the EU's refugee policies. In an interview with Spanish TV channel Intereconomia in 2015, Orban raised fears about integrating Muslim migrants in the EU when he said: "What sort of Europe do we want to have? Parallel societies? Muslim communities living together with the Christian community?"

'I must fight' Macron

Orban spoke out against French President Emmanuel Macron, whom Orban described as the leader of pro-immigration policies in Europe.

"It is nothing personal, but a matter of our countries' future," Orban said of Macron. "If what he wants with regards to migration materializes in Europe, that would be bad for Hungary; therefore I must fight him."

Read more: How the EU's resettlement plan is failing to meet its goal

Orban also said he could not see any chance for a compromise with Germany. He said German politicians and media attack him and put excessive pressure on him to admit migrants.

He predicted that there would be two civilizations in Europe: One "that builds its future on a mixed Islamic and Christian coexistence" and another in Central Europe that would be only Christian.

Orban won a third consecutive term in April, following a campaign that focused on anti-immigration policies, as the continent's voters increasingly respond to populist agendas.

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Poland wary of Salvini

While Salvini on Wednesday said he and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland's ruling party leader, agreed on most issues, Polish officials appeared to have some reservations at the prospect of forming an alliance with Salvini, who is seen in Poland as too friendly to Russia.

Polish lawmaker Witold Waszczykowski, a former foreign minister, said "the only arrangements that have been made concern further meetings and further consultations, but there are no arrangements for a deal, a creation in advance of alliances or common clubs in the European Parliament."

Read more: Visegrad represents Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and Poles

A leading commentator for the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper, Michal Szuldrzynski, said he believed Salvini heard more about what divides Italy's League and Poland's Law and Justice party than what unites them during his visit.

"Kaczynski showed that he doesn't want to be a part of a euroskeptic alliance under the patronage of the Kremlin," Szuldrzynski wrote in Thursday's paper.

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law/sms (AP, Reuters)