EPP silent over Orban’s flirt with nationalist Brothers of Italy

For the Italian center-right, Orbàn’s letter is of high importance considering that for the first time in 10 years EPP is back in an Italian government with the participation of Forza Italia. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Europe’s biggest political group, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), has declined to comment on a letter of support Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sent to Italy’s nationalist party Brothers of Italy, member of another political family, where he cites their shared “Christian and conservative values”.

In the letter to the Brothers of Italy, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party (ECR) and the only opposition party to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government, Orbán asks for cooperation.

The letter was addressed to Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia), and president of the ECR. “We need reliable battle comrades who have a common vision of the world and give similar answers to the challenges of our times,” Orbán wrote.

“After spending sixteen years in the opposition, I have learned that victory is never final, and defeat is never fatal. Only one thing counts: whether we are ready to continue the fight,” the Hungarian leader said.

Fratelli d’Italia ranks third in most recent Italian polls and its popular support is increasingly growing. It is currently the only opposition party in the Italian parliament.

Orbán said he needed “reliable battle companions” who have a common vision of the world and give similar answers to the challenges of our times.

“I hope that the cooperation between Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance and the Brothers of Italy will continue in the future and that we will be able to maintain our friendly relations based on the policy of common sense, on Christian and conservative values,” Orbán concluded.

Orbán’s Fidesz is affiliated with the European People’s Party (EPP) but it has been a thorn in the EPP’s side for years and its membership of the group has been suspended temporarily.

Several attempts by a number of centre-right leaders to expel Fidesz from EPP ranks have failed due to a lack of the necessary majority.

The EPP Group in the European Parliament is currently discussing a change in their internal rules with two options in mind: the possibility to suspend a delegation, depriving it of all its rights, but counting it formally inside, in order to remain the first group in the Parliament; or the possibility to expel it with a vote by absolute majority.

For the Italian centre-right, Orbán’s letter is of particular significance considering that for the first time in 10 years, the  EPP is back in an Italian government, thanks to the participation of Forza Italia.

Contacted by EURACTIV, Forza Italia declined to comment at this stage. EURACTIV also contacted the press office of EPP chief Donald Tusk but no answer has been provided so far.

Rumours in Brussels suggest that Orbán is winking at the ECR in view of his precarious relations with his current political family.

Sources from Brothers of Italy, however, interpreted the letter as a mark of respect for the party leader Giorgia Meloni rather than the first step in Fidesz joining the ECR.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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