Hungary’s Radical Jobbik Party Abandons Push to Leave EU

  • Opposition group has been trying to shed its extremist image
  • Migration crisis may trigger positive EU changes, Jobbik says

Hungary’s radical Jobbik is no longer advocating to quit the European Union as it sees a chance for the bloc to improve, a major step in the political party’s transformation into a more mainstream force.

It’s not the right time for Hungary to leave as the challenge of the migration crisis may trigger an overhaul of some of the EU’s mechanisms, Gabor Vona, re-elected as the nationalist party’s leader last weekend, told Inforadio in an interview late on Wednesday.

Jobbik, which may pose the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz in elections due in 2018, has been trying to shed its extremist image and earlier association with uniformed vigilante groups. Vona has attempted to move Jobbik toward the political center in its rhetoric just as anti-establishment movements are making gains in ballots across the continent and as Britain prepares to vote on its EU membership.

“For the first time in a long, long while, I now see a chance for the European Union to move not in a negative but a positive direction, from my perspective,” Vona said in the radio interview. “If that happens, then our task is not to leave at exactly this moment but to take part in the debates.”

Foreign Minister

Orban has led Fidesz in the opposite direction. He’s engaged in increasingly acrimonious debates with EU partners on his “illiberal democratic” political model and his fierce opposition to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcome for refugees, sometimes comparing Brussels to Hungary’s former Soviet masters. At the same time, Orban has not advocated leaving the bloc, which he relies on for subsidies accounting for much of Hungary’s economic growth.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, speaking in an interview with Figyelo weekly newspaper published on Thursday, reaffirmed that view.

“I don’t know how many times we have to repeat that Hungary’s future is in the EU,” Szijjarto said. “I can’t imagine a strong Hungary without a strong EU.”

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