September 29, 2019 / 1:46 PM / 23 days ago

Hungary will remain part of the European Union, PM Orban says

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary has no plans to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Sunday, adding however that eastern and western members of the bloc must find a compromise over the bloc’s future.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacts during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) as they visit the Hungarian border town of Sopron, to mark the beginning of the fall of the Iron Curtain thirty years ago, in Hungary, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Orban, in power for nearly a decade, has often been at loggerheads with Brussels, for example over his refusal to take in migrants under an EU quota scheme and his efforts to tighten control over the media, the judiciary and academic institutions.

His combative stance has prompted speculation that Hungary might at some stage follow Britain’s example and leave the EU, though it provides billions of euros worth of funding to its poorer ex-communist member states.

The EU is now seeking to make that generous assistance conditional on upholding the rule of law.

“We are a member of the Union and will remain a member,” Orban told a congress of his ruling Fidesz party, which re-elected the 55-year-old premier as its president.

However, in an apparent reference to criticism of Hungary’s record on the rule of law by some other EU members, he added: “This is our country, our home and our life and no one else but Hungarians can decide about that.”

A “compromise” is needed between the two sides of Europe, said Orban, whose Fidesz faces local government elections in two weeks’ time and his hard line on immigration has been a strong vote winner for his right-wing party.

“Even though the western and eastern halves of the Union clearly follow different paths ... and respect different values, ways of living together can be formed even in such circumstances,” Orban said.

Orban said “the other side” should abandon what he called their open attacks on governments in ex-communist central and eastern Europe.

“We do not send them such paid political activists, so they should also take theirs home from central Europe,” he said.

“They should abandon covert actions against central European governments,” Orban said. “The EU budget should not be used to finance teams and media favoured by liberals and immigrants serving their objectives.

“If we really want to keep Europe together, we need to abandon these practices.”

Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Gareth Jones

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