Orban prepares a new populist alliance for the European Parliament
Conservative-nationalist leaders from Hungary and Poland met with the Italian Right-wing League in Budapest on Thursday to discuss an alliance they hope could upset the balance of power in the European Parliament.
“We want a European renaissance,” said Viktor Orban, Hungarian Prime Minister, after the talks, adding that the next meeting would probably take place in Warsaw in May.
Orban hosted the meeting two weeks after his right-wing Fidesz party finalized its divorce from the powerful European People’s Party, the center-right political family that includes the German Christian Democratic Union.
“This is the darkest period [in Europe] since the Second World War ”, declared Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian Anti-Immigration League, adding that“ the Brussels elite ”was incapable of meeting the current challenges.
Orban, Salvini and Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Prime Minister, said they discussed their common belief in “Atlanticism, freedom, family, Christianity, sovereignty and opposition to anti-Semitism”.
The three politicians face big hurdles, including finding common ground on Russia, which has divided their parties in the past. But if they can attract enough support from all the other right-wing parties, they could become the second largest bloc in the European Parliament.
Mr Orban said it would be possible to find common ground. “There is no subject on which we cannot come to an agreement, and this is true for both domestic and foreign policy,” he said.
European populist and nativist parties have already tried to form a single bloc in the European Parliament. A campaign to unite “sovereignist” parties ahead of the 2019 elections, led by former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, came to naught after the Italian Lega, Polish Law and Justice (PiS) and the Hungarian Fidesz remained in their separate alliances.
But Orban’s resignation from the center-right EPP – which came after a long row with the group in which he attacked its leadership, Brussels and vowed to build an “illiberal democracy” in Hungary – has reopened the debate.
The EPP “has apparently made a commitment to cooperate with the European left in the long term, and Christian democracy has no real representation in Europe today”, said Orban. “We reject the ‘ridiculous geometry that the right has only extremes, while the left has only one center.’
Orban said Salvini was a “hero” to Hungarians because of his attempts during his tenure as Home Secretary to prevent ships carrying asylum seekers from docking in his country.
Daniel Hegedüs, central European researcher at the German Marshall Fund, said the reasons for Orban and Salvini for wanting to form a new parliamentary group were clear. “Orban is alone in the cold and needs a new political home. Salvini would like to be seen as a driving force and an agitator at European level, ”he said.
But he said the real decision on the alliance would be made in Warsaw.
Observers have long been skeptical about whether the Polish PiS, which is deeply suspicious of Russia, could agree to an alliance with far-right parties such as the League and the National Rally (RN) of the Navy. Le Pen, in particular because they have had a much warmer relationship for a long time. with Moscow.
Morawiecki did not provide details at a press conference on how the grouping would be formed, but spoke of forces that “want to rob Europe” of its Christian traditions. “The roots of Europe must be rebuilt so that it does not go into something unknown,” he said.
The PiS and a smaller ally hold 27 of Poland’s 52 seats; Orban’s Fidesz party has 11 of the 21 MEPs. The League, the largest Italian party in the European Parliament, with 28 of Italy’s 76 seats, is part of the Eurosceptic far-right group ID, along with Le Pen’s RN.
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a PiS MEP, told the Financial Times that his party’s preferred option was to invite Fidesz and the Salvini League to join the bloc of European conservatives and reformists, of which the PiS is the most large member. “And maybe others from [Identity and Democracy] group, Le Pen is not excluded, ”he said.
Ahead of the talks, Salvini said he would like to see the ECR and the ID unite as one family. Saryusz-Wolski said he believed that at best an enlarged ECR could muster 147 of the 705 seats in the European Parliament.
However, other observers believe any new group is likely to be much smaller. GMF Hegedüs stressed that becoming the second largest party would require the full merger of ECR, ID and Fidesz MEPs, which he said would be “unrealistic”.
“The elephant evident in the room is Russia,” Hegedüs said. “This is one of the main open questions, whether the fundamentally different approach of potential partners vis-à-vis Russia can be ignored by Warsaw, because it is not taken into account in relations Polish-Hungarian, in order to obtain more protection at European level against possible sanctions. “
However, Saryusz-Wolski said the divergent positions of Salvini and Le Pen were not an insurmountable obstacle for the PiS. He argued that Le Pen’s party was in practice less supportive of the Kremlin than the center-right and center-left groups that had not opposed the Nordstream II gas pipeline that will bring gas from Russia to the Germany.
“Socialists and Democrats [S&D] and the EPP are de facto pro-Russian because they do business as usual with Russia. Salvini and Le Pen speak pro-Russian, the others act pro-Russian, ”he said.
Saryusz-Wolski said the PiS’s drive to consolidate Parliament’s right-wing forces arose in part from frustration with the way the European Commission had treated Poland during the Warsaw-Brussels clashes over a judicial overhaul. Polish woman, whom the committee considers a threat to power. of the law. On Wednesday, the committee asked the EU’s highest court to put some of Poland’s reforms on hold.
“We have been criticized so much that we will do whatever it takes to be big and resist.”
Additional reporting by Mehreen Khan in Brussels