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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has turned down an invitation for a televised debate with European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is the lead candidate of the Party of European Socialists (PES) for European Commission president, Orbán’s press chief said. Bertalan Havasi said Orbán had expressed his thanks for the invitation “but did not accept it”. “It would be incorrect for the Hungarian prime minister to get involved in the election campaign of lead candidates Timmermans and Weber,” Havasi said referring to Manfred Weber, the Spitzenkandidat of the European People’s Party.
István Ujhelyi, an MEP of the opposition Socialist Party, called on the prime minister to accept the invitation to the debate initiated by news channel Euronews. Timmermans has been invited by the Socialists to attend their party congress next Saturday. The debate could take place in the morning of that day, Ujhelyi told a press conference.
The direction that the European Union will take in the next few weeks is one of the most important questions for Europe today, Ujhelyi said. One direction the “anti-European, populist forces, nationalists and neo-fascists” want to take is to set up a group that will be spearheaded by, among others, Orbán in the years ahead. The other direction involves a vision for a social Europe which has been chosen by Timmermans and the European Socialists, he said.