BUDAPEST (AFP) - Hungary's government announced on Saturday (March 2) that it would end a controversial poster campaign accusing US philanthropist George Soros and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of supporting illegal migration.
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said on Twitter that "the information campaign" would end on March 15, as had been planned.
Earlier this week, the European Commission issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the claims made in the campaign, calling them "at worst downright factually incorrect, or at best highly misleading".
The campaign has also outraged other parties in the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) grouping that Fidesz sits with in Brussels - and from which Juncker also hails.
Kovacs' message was posted in response to an interview given to the German Der Spiegel magazine by Manfred Weber, the EPP's lead candidate for May's European elections.
In it Weber said the poster campaign had "damaged" the EPP.
"For this reason I expect him (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban) to apologise and stop this action," Weber said.
Several other parties within the EPP have indicated that they would support Fidesz's expulsion from the grouping.
However, in his tweets Saturday, Kovacs said that "the Hungarian government is prepared to listen to any criticism, but the decision of the Hungarian people is more important to us than party discipline".
In an interview published late on Saturday on the German weekly Welt am Sonntag's website, Orban indicated that the Juncker posters would be replaced after March 15 by new ones displaying European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans alongside Soros.
"Soros' role in European politics cannot be ignored and everyone has the right to know that Timmermans is openly his ally," he told the newspaper.
"In the next phase of the election campaign... you will see another actor on the posters: Mr Timmermans," he said.
The remarks followed accusations made by Orban during a speech last month that the Dutch politician who heads the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) list for the May election was "pro-immigration" and "Soros's candidate" to succeed Juncker.
Asked about the efforts to expel Fidesz from the EPP, Orban said that "in reality the attack is coming from the left, not to weaken us but to weaken the EPP".
Describing his critics within the EPP as "naive" he accused them of "serving the interests of others, namely those of our opponents".