Viktor Orban seeks ‘European renaissance’ with Polish and Italian allies

Nationalists call for return to ‘traditional values’ and limits on EU power

Hungary's nationalist prime minister Viktor Orban and Polish ally Mateusz Morawiecki have agreed with Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini to work together for a "renaissance" of conservative politics in the European Union and push back against what they see as a domineering and overly liberal Brussels.

They revealed no details of what their co-operation would entail, however, and did not forge any formal alliance following the recent acrimonious departure of Mr Orban's Fidesz party from the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament.

“We want a European renaissance, and we will work together to that end. We have clarified all the issues that are important to our nations and our interests do not conflict on any point,” Mr Orban said after talks in Budapest on Thursday.

“As well as being committed to transatlantic relations, we stand for freedom, dignity, Christianity, family and national sovereignty. We say ‘no’ to censorship and any use of European power according to the Brussels agenda, and we say ‘no’ to anti-Semitism,” he added.


Bitter clashes

Fidesz left the EPP, whose members include Fine Gael, as it faced suspension by a group that had grown frustrated with Mr Orban's bitter clashes with Brussels over reforms that the EU says undermine Hungary's democracy and rule of law.

"The European People's Party has apparently committed itself to co-operating with the European left . . . and Christian Democracy has no real representation in Europe today. We want to represent these people, we want them to also have a voice in the European Union," Mr Orban said.

Mr Morawiecki echoed his host's call for European politics to refocus on conservative values, but there was no suggestion that Fidesz would join forces with Poland's ruling Law and Justice party in the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.

“Today we see that Europe is shaky, torn by various contradictions. We want to represent a wide spectrum of views and represent the people,” the Polish leader said, adding that the EU’s priority must be to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We need a recovery plan today, but at the same time we need a renaissance of Europe, of its values . . . Today we see that Europe is at a crossroads, that it has lost its roots – we want to help re-establish them,” he added.

A day after the European Commission took his government to court for allegedly undermining the independence of Polish judges and the application of EU law in the country, Mr Morawiecki said that “Europe cannot be a diktat of the strongest, the biggest”.

Mr Salvini said the trio were “working so that the people of Europe can leave behind the darkest moment of the post-war era, putting at the centre hope, family, work, rights, liberties . . . let there be a renaissance, a resurrection”.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe