Bavarian, Austrian conservatives frown at Orbán’s call to ally with populists

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (R) talks to Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder (L) after a meeting at the Chancellery in Vienna, Austria, 3 May 2019. [Christian Bruna/EPA/EFE]

The leaders of Austria and Bavaria rejected on Friday (3 May) a call by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for their centre-right group in the European Parliament to ally with populist, nationalist parties ahead of EU elections later this month.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Bavarian state premier Markus Söder both head parties that are part of the European People’s Party (EPP), the main conservative bloc in the European assembly.

In March the EPP suspended Orbán’s nationalist Fidesz party over accusations it had violated EU principles on the rule of law, freedom of the press and minorities’ rights.

In the run-up to the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May, Orbán has called for the EPP to drop its aversion to the far right and forge an alliance after the vote.

Orban says Salvini is the most important politician in Europe

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said the European Parliament’s main centre-right group must forge an alliance with populist, nationalist groups after impending EU elections, receiving a swift rebuke from Germany’s conservative leader.

“No cooperation in Europe with right-wing populists, of course,” Söder, who heads the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, told a joint news conference with Kurz after meeting in Vienna.

“Nothing good would come of it,” he added.

Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s far-right League, is trying to put together a Europe-wide alliance of nationalist, anti-immigration parties including the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France.

“I think nothing of cooperating with parties such as the AfD and Le Pen, which want to leave the European Union,” Kurz said. “These parties have long ruled themselves out through their anti-European position.”

He added, however, that one would have to see what alliances were possible after the European Parliament election later this month and that the priority for now was for the EPP to do as well as it can.

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