Twelve national members of the centre-right European People's Party have officially requested the exclusion of Hungary's populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his party Fidesz, the party leader said on Monday.
"Twelve EPP member parties from nine countries have requested the exclusion or suspension of Fidesz," EPP head Joseph Daul told AFP, adding that the question will be discussed at a meeting on March 20.
In the meantime, Hungary's premier described members of a European Union political group who want his party expelled as "useful idiots," saying in an interview with Germany's Welt newspaper, published Sunday, they are playing into the hands of left-wing opponents and will cause the bloc to divide.
There have been tensions between the European bloc and the Hungarian right-wing government over a number of issues, primarily uncontrolled immigration, which PM Orban considers to be detrimental for the European welfare.
Earlier, a series of placards, spread across Hungary and featuring EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker alongside migration proponent George Soros, meant to show their closeness, has sparked fury in the EU, with the EU Commission president condemning the promo-campaign as "lies."
He demanded that the Hungarian governing party Fidesz be stripped of its membership within the EU Parliament's EPP. However, the Hungarian government's chief spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, in turn, dismissed suggestions that Fidesz would be forced to leave the EPP, asserting that the procedure can only be kick-started by the EPP's most senior leaders or a joint letter from at least seven parties in five countries.
Reacting to the much-debated anti-migration promo-posters, a European Union executive, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, accused Hungary's right-wing government Monday of distorting the truth about immigration into the European countries, thereby marking a further deterioration in their tense relations in the run-up to European Parliament elections due to take place in May.
"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," Schinas told a news briefing.
A staunch opponent of illegal immigration and migrant quotas in the EU, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has repeatedly stood up against leftist donor Soros and his NGOs', Open Society Foundations', programmes endorsing mass immigration, which he says are meant to weaken the largely Christian European nations.
To resolve the issue, the country's parliament last year passed the so-called "Stop Soros" bill, criminalising aid to illegal migrants and making it harder for refugees to seek asylum in Hungary. In a parallel move, in summer 2018, Soros' initially Budapest-based foundations network announced the relocation of its Hungarian office to Berlin.