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The European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance (EC/DA) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) met in Budapest on Friday to discuss, among other topics, migration and the outlook for further strengthening conservative unity. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said European conservatives supported the Hungarian government’s efforts in the migration crisis. Last year alone, the Hungarian authorities prevented 270,000 people from entering the territory of the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone illegally, she said.
Ian Liddell-Grainger, the group’s British leader, said conservatives were becoming increasingly stronger in Europe. Though the United Kingdom has left the EU, it has not left Europe, he said. Zsolt Németh, the deputy leader of the Council of Europe’s conservative group, said their aim was for conservatives to move into second place in the field of European party families.
Responding to a question on the role of populism, Liddel-Grainer said the political trend could contribute to Europeans’ understanding of “migration, freedom and the future of Europe”. Németh added that the party family European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) included a growing number of governing parties.
Regarding Hungary’s approaching European Council presidency, Justice Minister Judit Varga said the country was well-prepared and would focus on issues like increasing the EU’s competitiveness, handling demographic challenges and the future of the bloc’s cohesion policy. Later in the day, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met a delegation of PACE’s European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.