Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has distanced himself and his party from potentially joining a populist group in the European Parliament led by Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.
Prime Minister Orbán’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyás held a press conference earlier this week explaining that Orbán’s party Fidesz wished to remain a member of the notionally centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), which includes Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) — despite having been suspended from the group in March, Reuters reports.
“We respect the Italian deputy prime minister and the Italian government and the result, which made the Northern League Italy’s strongest party after the European Parliament election,” Gulyas said, but added: “Nonetheless, I see not much chance for a co-operation on a party level or in a joint parliamentary group.”
The announcement comes after months of speculation on a potential alliance between Orbán and Salvini after the pair had vowed some form of co-operation in August last year, when the Hungarian leader labelled the Italian his “hero” for largely halting illegal migrants coming to Italy via the Mediterranean Sea.
Orban Labels Salvini ‘Most Important Person in Europe’ Ahead of Visit https://t.co/AhxONg4HY3
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 2, 2019
Both politicians met again in May, with Orbán once again praising Salvini in an interview with Italian media and saying he thought he was “the most important person in Europe today”.
Following the suspension of Fidesz from the EPP, Orbán had stated that his party would be looking to other parties in Europe to forge new alliances, including the Italian populists: “Hungary is too small to enforce its opinion in Europe. Media, NGOs, universities in Europe are all against us and can destroy us. That’s why we need strong allies,” he explained.
Orbán putting off a formal alliance with Salvini is not the only setback for his new populist “supergroup”, with a source telling The Sun newspaper that talks on bringing in Nigel Farage and his new Brexit Party — which will be the joint-largest national party in the European Parliament when MEPs retake their seats — broke down.
Donald Trump Praises Nigel Farage for ‘Great Victory’ in European Union Vote https://t.co/zNNxLRUakF
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 30, 2019
Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)breitbart.com