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article imageHungary attacks Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

By AFP     Feb 19, 2019 in World

Hungary launched a new anti-immigration media campaign on Tuesday in which it accused US philanthropist George Soros and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of allegedly supporting illegal migration, but which Brussels immediately dismissed as "fake news".

According to the Hungarian government's Facebook page, the media blitz -- funded with taxpayers' money -- is expected to include billboard posters featuring images of the liberal billionaire Soros and a smiling Juncker above the words: "You too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing".

"They want to bring in the mandatory settlement quota; weaken member states' rights to border defence; facilitate immigration with a migrant visa," it continues.

The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians, including Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party (EPP) grouping which includes both Juncker and right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.

In a series of tweets, Daul condemned the campaign, calling its claims "deceitful, misleading and... not based on facts".

Daul denounced Hungary's attacks on Juncker and defended him as a "true Christian Democrat and a real European leader".

He went on to remind Hungary that "decisions in Brussels, including on migration, are taken collectively by EU governments" and the European Parliament, both of which include Hungarian representatives.

Speaking at an event in Stuttgart, Juncker himself said Fidesz "do not represent Christian Democratic values in any way", adding: "There is no overlap between Mr Orban and myself. I therefore believe that his place is not in the EPP."

Juncker said that both Fidesz's MEPs and those led by French far-right leader Marine Le Pen had voted against him.

"There are votes you don't want," he added.

The presence of Fidesz within the EPP has long been a source of controversy but there have been no official moves by any of the other centre-right parties in the grouping to expel it.

Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."

In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born Soros, 88, as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.

At the same time, Orban's government has frequently been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its campaigns against Soros, claims it denies.

In recent months, pro-Orban media have also attacked Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini -- the author of a critical report about Hungary that formed the basis of EU legal action against Budapest -- and Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans.

"Brussels continues to want to support illegal immigration," Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told reporters in Budapest on Tuesday.

"Hungarians need to know about this, that's why the latest information campaign has been launched," he said, denying it is part of the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.

Kovacs said plans in "drawers in Brussels" included hikes in financial funding of NGOs and the creation of a special migration fund.

EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news".

"The Hungary government campaign beggars belief," he told a briefing in Brussels.

"It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction," he said.

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