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Hungary’s Orban reaffirms country’s EU and NATO membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, center, applauds the audience after he addressed a conference held on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the formation of his government in 2010 in the atrium of the Budapest History Museum in Budapest, Hungary, Friday, May 29, 2015. Orban has recognized the far-right Jobbik party as the "leading opposition party" and reaffirmed the country's commitment to its membership in the European Union and NATO. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister said Friday that despite differences of opinion, the country must remain a member of the European Union and NATO.

Speaking to supporters at an event celebrating five years in government, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that while some EU proposals “border on the insane” and he was ready to debate the “bureaucracy in Brussels,” he also opposed any attempt to make Hungary exit the EU or NATO.

“For Hungarians this is our family,” Orban said. “It is in our interest to improve (the EU) but not to leave it. We will not divorce.”

Orban, whose Fidesz party holds a comfortable majority in parliament, most recently clashed with the EU after saying that the issue of capital punishment needed to be kept “on the agenda” after the murder in Hungary of a young shop attendant. The EU considers its ban of the death penalty a key value.

Orban has also been staunchly opposed to receiving non-European immigrants, who have been arriving by the hundreds daily for the past months through Hungary’s southern border with Serbia. Most quickly move further west toward Austria and Germany.

“Hungary will be a country of Hungarians,” Orban said. “The security, success and well-being of Hungarians come first.”

Orban mentioned the EU and NATO in contrasting his position to that of the far-right Jobbik party, which he now acknowledged — probably for the first time — as his government’s main challenger.

Jobbik, which calls NATO a “security risk” for Hungary and wants a referendum to confirm EU membership, has been steadily behind Fidesz but ahead of the left wing parties in opinion polls. National elections are scheduled for 2018.

Orban, who has been accused of centralizing power and weakening the democratic system of checks and balances, also promised a less confrontational style of government.

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