Far-right European governments launch plan to take over EU with anti-immigration ‘axis’

Orban welcomes Salvini call for Rome–Warsaw axis

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Thursday 10 January 2019 13:36 GMT
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban says he has great hopes for European 'axis' as he seeks anti-immigration majority across Europe

Hungary’s prime minister has welcomed the creation of an anti-immigration “axis” in Europe that could see like-minded far-right EU leaders join forces to run the union.

Viktor Orban said he wanted to see an anti-immigration majority in the EU institutions and that he would team up with countries like Italy and Poland to change the bloc’s direction.

The far-right leader said there could be no “compromise” on the migration issue and that he would have to “fight” leaders such as Emmanuel Macron to “respect Hungarians' decision not to become an immigrant nation”.

“I wish for Europe to have a political force that is to the right of the European People's Party [the transnational centre-right party that dominates the European Commission], a Rome-Warsaw axis that is capable of governing, capable of taking responsibility and opposed to immigration,” he said in a speech on Thursday.

Mr Orban also said he believed there would be “two civilisations” in the EU: “one mixed Muslim-Christian in the west and one traditional, in central Europe”.

Matteo Salvini, the far-right interior minister in the Italian government, earlier today called for a Rome-Warsaw axis to build “a new Europe” that was against migration.

“I’d like to create a pact, an alliance for everyone who wants to save Europe, the more of us, the better,” Mr Salvini had said.

Poland’s right-wing populist prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said earlier this week that “with Mr Salvini we are on the same page with regards to many European matters”. He cited alleged “discrimination” against Poland by Brussels.

Austria’s right-wing chancellor Sebastian Kurz last year called for an anti-immigration “axis” using the same language. Speaking alongside the right-wing Bavarian CSU party he cited Italy and Germany as possible allies.

Mr Orban’s speech comes as he comes under popular pressure in Hungary, where he is facing sustained public protest against a so-called “slave law” that loosens overtime protections.

Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and right-wing League party leader (Reuters/Ammar Awad)
Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and right-wing League party leader (Reuters/Ammar Awad) (Reuters)

His party Fidesz still remains the most popular in opinion polls, though it appears to have lost some support.

The far right is expected to make significant gains across the continent in this year’s European parliament elections, consolidating those it made at a national level since the last round in 2014.

The European parliament elections in part decide the president of the European Commission, with the council and parliament making the choice in tandem.

Polls suggest that a far-right group could credibly become the second largest grouping in the transnational parliament – though divisions between different parties in different countries could prevent them from coalescing around a single banner.

Anti-immigration parties and governments have already had some successes in the EU – putting the issue they do best on high on the agenda. In the summer the European Council changed its policies on rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean under pressure from Italy – condemning NGO-run rescue boats for picking up drowning people.

Asked about the proposals for an alliance, a European Commission spokesperson said: "People in Europe, all over Europe, talk to each other, and they are free of course to do so. This does not question at all our commitment and the European Commission’s commitment to guarantee the values that are enshrined in our treaties, and there are many of them - ranging from the rule of law, equality, democracy - all these things that member states are committed to, that they have signed up to voluntarily by being a member of the European Union. So the European Commission will always continue to uphold these values in everything that we do.

"People are talking to each other, people have different views, and are free to do so, but I think it is in the end the electorate that decides which governments are in place and what policy they should pursue.

"We have the upcoming European elections in which people will be able to express the views on who should be representing them at the European level, and what course the European Union should take. I think the European Commission is very clear in all the values that we stand for and that we continuously defend, because this is what the European Union is based on and what we will continue to do."

If the UK leaves the EU as it is set to do on 29 March 2019 it will not be able to participate in the European parliament elections. The previous round of European elections in the UK were won by Ukip in 2014.

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