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Link between Italy's Salvini and Hungary's Orban downplayed

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A top aide to Hungary's prime minister said Thursday that he sees only a "slight possibility" that Viktor Orban's Fidesz party will link up with Italy's Matteo Salvini in a coalition in the European Parliament.

Gergely Gulyas, Orban's chief of staff, said that while the Hungarian governing conservatives "naturally respect" Salvini and the Italian government, he sees only an "extraordinarily small chance" of Fidesz sharing a parliamentary group with some of the other potential unnamed members of a possible Salvini-led coalition.

Orban, for example, has previously rejected any attempts to align him with France's far-right National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen. Before the elections, Orban frequently called on the European People's Party to cooperate more closely with Salvini and other euroskeptics who share his anti-migration policies.

But the euroskeptics did not do as well as many predicted in recent elections to the European Parliament, and there are signs Salvini might not be able to forge a bloc from parties who are united around a strict euroskeptic, anti-migrant, anti-Islam platform, but little else. The nationalist Polish ruling party has also balked at being in an alliance with parties like Le Pen's and Salvini's League given their pro-Moscow sympathies.

Fidesz was suspended from the EPP in March over concerns about Hungary's democracy. Its status in the largest grouping in the EU parliament is still in doubt. Gulyas also announced that the government wants to indefinitely suspend a divisive plan to set up a new court system to deal with matters involving the state, such as taxation, public procurement and elections. That appeared like another conciliatory gesture toward the EPP and an attempt for Fidesz to remain in the center-right group.

"The far right did not strengthen enough in the elections and now Orban wants to stay closer to the EU's center of power," said Gabor Gyori, an analyst at the Policy Solutions think-tank. "These are important gestures toward the EPP, but it's questionable whether they'll be sufficient."

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