Apparently ignoring the existence of the EU centre-right (European People’s Party-EPP), Italy’s former Deputy Prime Minister and Lega leader Matteo Salvini found himself in “full agreement” with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at a meeting in Rome on Thursday, where they discussed creating a new “centre-right” to fight rising socialists across Europe.
On his first international visit after his election victory earlier this month, Hungary’s prime minister broke a tradition that had existed since 2010, as he chose to visit Italy and not Poland.
After a private audience with the Pope, he met the Lega leader to discuss the international situation in light of the war in Ukraine.
Salvini highlighted his “full agreement” with Orbán on issues such as “the fight against illegal immigration, the need to lower the tax burden for families and businesses”, but also the need to work “on a European centre-right alternative to the socialists, to defend the values and roots of the West”.
It is the first time that Salvini refers to a new EU “centre-right”.
In Italy, the centre-right is embodied by Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. At the same time, Salvini’s Lega is seen as far-right or right-wing, although he shares this space with Georgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia.
In July 2021, far-right parties from 16 EU countries, including Frances’ Rassemblement National, Poland’s PiS, Hungary’s Fidesz, and Italy’s Lega, signed a document referring to “right-wing parties” joining forces to reform the EU.
In late January 2022, nine far-right and nationalist European leaders agreed on a “roadmap” for a patriotic Europe during a meeting organised by the far-right Spanish Vox party in Madrid.
Critics suggest that Europe’s far-right leaders, who have been discussing a new alliance since Orbán’s Fidesz party left the traditional EU centre-right family (EPP), are willing to take advantage of the EPP’s successive electoral defeats across the bloc.
EPP’s last electoral fiasco occurred in the first round of the French Presidential elections, in which Valérie Pécresse, the candidate for the centre-right Les Republicains (LR), fell short of the 5% threshold required for minimum reimbursement of campaign spending.
In France, far-right Marine Le Pen has also attempted to present a “centre-right” profile avoiding this time extremist positions – at least in public – providing a pre-taste of what the EU far-right is planning. However, she did not convince, EURACTIV France commented.
Another crucial vote for the EPP will be held on Sunday in Slovenia, where centre-right PM Janez Jansa faces a tight race in parliamentary elections billed as a “referendum on democracy” by the opposition in the deeply polarised country, according to AFP.
According to EURACTIV’s partner Europe Elects, the polling average suggest that Janša’s centre-right SDS party may repeat its election result of about 25%. However, the centrist “Freedom Movement” (GS) party currently polls at 24.9%, challenging SDS’s pole position in the popular vote.
But Jansa is also a well-known ally of nationalist Hungarian PM Orbán.
Orbán did not meet Meloni
After winning the general elections, Orbán criticised Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy- something that has caused the Budapest-Warsaw axis to falter.
Salvini has condemned Russia’s aggression without explicitly criticising Putin. On Thursday, the Lega leader reaffirmed “the deep friendship and collaboration between Rome and Budapest”.
The lack of a meeting with the leader of the other Italian right party Fratelli d’Italia, Giorgia Meloni, who has taken a tough line on Putin like Poland’s ruling PiS party, was noted by the media.
(Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Alice Taylor | EURACTIV.com)