The prime ministers of Hungary and Poland as well as Italian populist Matteo Salvini pledged to create a new political alliance on Thursday (1 April) in Budapest, to the right of the main conservative European People’s Party grouping in the European Parliament.
However, the politicians revealed few details of the future cooperation.
Fresh from his party’s exit out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hosted Polish and Italian populists to explore new alliances.
“We are going to launch a new platform, an organisation, a process which will give those citizens who believe in a traditional Europe the representation that they deserve,” Orbán said ahead of the meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and former Italian interior minister Salvini.
After the meeting Orbán hailed “the first step of a long road together”, speaking of a need for a “European renaissance”.
“We have agreed to continue the work, we will meet in May, either in Rome or in Warsaw, the date will depend on the pandemic”, the Hungarian leader told a joint news conference.
At his side, Salvini, leader of the far-right League in Italy, spoke of a “path which begins today and which will continue in several stages in different European capitals, expanding the group”.
“We present ourselves as the historic and founding core” of this alliance, promising “hope” after “the darkest period” since World War II, Salvini added, though no one was talking at this stage about rejigging the European parties.
Polish PM Morawiecki said the plan was to represent “a wide spectrum of opinions and people”.
He advocated “European integration… which respects national sovereignty, the family, Christianity” and the defence of “traditional” values.
‘Very different interests’
Orbán’s Fidesz party left the EPP this month, two weeks after walking out of the alliance’s group in the European Parliament.
The move put an end to years of debate inside the EPP about whether Fidesz should be allowed to remain given the frequent accusations levelled at Orbán of undermining the rule of law.
Since then, in his search for new allies Orbán has turned to Morawiecki’s Law and Justice (PiS) party, as well as the stridently anti-immigration and eurosceptic Salvini.
However, PiS and Salvini’s League belong to different European political groupings.
Salvini said on Tuesday (30 March) that the talks would aim at the “creation of a common charter of values, principles and objectives”.
He said that if non-EPP right-wing forces were to group together they could constitute the second largest grouping in the European Parliament — after the EPP itself — and wield significant influence.
Birmingham University political scientist Daniele Albertazzi said it was “not unrealistic” that PiS, Fidesz and Salvini’s League could form a common European Parliament grouping, adding: “There are strong practical and financial incentives to do it.”
He added that this could happen despite the lack of ideological cohesion between right-wing forces on some issues.
“They may say similar things on the EU, that it has too much power, but when it comes to things like sharing asylum seekers… the (Dutch) PVV and Orbán have very different interests from Salvini,” Albertazzi said.
Morawiecki also hinted that his preference was for the League and Fidesz to join the PiS’s European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) grouping.
The ECR “defends common sense and normality very well,” Morawiecki said.
The Italian League is part of the right-wing populist Identity and Democracy Group (ID) grouping, together with Marine Le Pen’s National Rassemblement National.
Previous attempts to unite nationalist and far-right political forces in the European parliament have ended in failure.
The ECR and ID groups particularly differ on their treatment of the Kremlin.
Immediately after the meeting in Budapest, the leader of the EPP, the Polish Donald Tusk, tweeted: “Russia is mobilising its forces around Ukraine…. In Budapest, Morawiecki is organising with Orbán and Salvini a pro-Putin political bloc. This is not an April Fool.”