20:26 GMT +318 March 2019
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    Migrants make their way after crossing the border at Zakany, Hungary October 16, 2015.

    Hungarian PM Vows to Fight 'Leader of Pro-Immigrant Forces in EU' Macron

    © REUTERS / Laszlo Balogh
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    France's Emmanuel Macron and Hungary's Viktor Orban have been engaged in a months-long political war of words amid the French president's threats to sanction EU member states which turn away migrants and the Hungarian prime minister's hard-line position on the migrant question.

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that he would welcome anti-immigration parties gaining a majority at the upcoming elections to the European Parliament in May.

    In a news conference on Thursday, Orban described French President Emmanuel Macron as the leader of pro-immigration forces in Europe, and vowed to fight him and what he stood for.

    "There is no denying that Emmanuel Macron is an important figure, moreover, the leader of the pro-immigration forces", he said. "It's nothing personal, but a matter of our countries' future. If what he wants with regard to migration materialises in Europe, that would be bad for Hungary. Therefore, I must fight him," Orban said.

    According to the prime minister, a victory by anti-immigration forces at the elections to the European Parliament in May could lead to changes in the EU's executive — the European Commission. Later, Orban said, national elections in individual EU states could change the makeup of the European Council, thus leading to a continent-wide shift on the migration issue.

    Commenting on the Polish-Italian agreement on strengthening the EU's external border, Orban said it was "one of the greatest developments that this year could have started with", and indicated that he could only welcome the move. "I am pinning great hopes on this," he said.

    The prime minister also accused Germany of disrespecting Hungarians' position on the migration issue, and said that he feels constant pressure from Berlin to let migrants in.

    "German politics does not respect Hungarians' decision not to become an immigrant nation," Orban said. "I sense especially from the German media, sometimes in a very gross way, that they exert pressure on us to follow them on their path [of admitting immigrants], and we do not wish to do so," he added. According to the prime minister, there was no hope for compromise on the issue.

    Macron has been embroiled in a conflict with populist leaders in Hungary, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Austria over his stance on the migrant crisis. Last June, the French president threatened to sanction EU member states which refused migrants with proven asylum status, saying Paris could not accept a situation where "countries that benefit massively from EU solidarity" give in to "national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants". Later, in an August speech, Macron berated Orban and other populist leaders as "nationalist demagogues."

    Last year, Prime Minister Orban said that the Visegrad Group of countries favoured the idea of creating screening centres for would-be migrants outside of the EU, proposing establishing such centres in Africa. The EU's migration commissioner rejected the idea, calling it a "Guantanamo Bay for migrants" which was "against our European values".

    The European Union has faced a major political crisis over its members' varying responses to the so-called refugee crisis which began in 2015. The EU's Central and Eastern European member states have refused to accept migrants on a mass scale, and balked at Brussels' proposal of refugee quotas. The present crisis is the most serious migration-related issue that Europe has faced since the Second World War, and stems from the armed conflicts and economic problems plaguing many African and Middle Eastern countries.

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