Hungary's Orban Rejects Weber as EU Party Candidate

(Bloomberg) -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he doesn’t support Manfred Weber, his political family’s main candidate to run the European Union’s executive branch, deepening a rift with the group that suspended his membership over the erosion of democratic values.

"Hungary’s prime minister cannot be in a position to support a person who has declared that they won’t accept the support of Hungarian voters," Orban told reporters at a joint briefing with Austria’s nationalist Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache in Budapest. "We are looking for the appropriate candidate."

While member states can’t individually veto a new EU commission chief, Orban’s comments reflect the schism between the European People’s Party mainstream and his Fidesz. While both sides have pledged to revisit the party’s membership after elections for European Parliament on May 26, Orban has distanced himself from the group for what he calls its pro-immigrant stance.

The Hungarian premier said he may still seek to remain a member under certain conditions if allowed to do so, but he has also courted parties to the political right of the EPP. Monday’s meeting with Strache, the leader of Austria’s Freedom Party, followed last week’s talks with Italian Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini. Orban is also scheduled to meet U.S. President Donald Trump on May 13.

After the last European elections in 2014, Orban also opposed the appointment of the EPP’s Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president.

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