Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán has sent a warm letter to Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini, who is leaving government as the formerly anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) forms a new coalition with the left-establishment Democratic Party (PD) to avoid fresh elections.
The League (Lega, formerly Lega Nord) leader made huge waves when he formed a coalition government with M5S after the Italian elections in 2018, becoming Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior and taking bold, decisive, and effective action against illegal migration and the NGO-operated migrant ferries he accused of facilitating it.
The relationship between M5S and Lega soured, however, as the former sank in the polls and Salvini’s party rose, to the point where Salvini lost confidence in the coalition’s leadership and called for a snap election.
Cognizant of the unfavourable polls, M5S has instead taken the risky decision to replace Lega with the establishment Democratic Party (PD) — which requires the re-opening of the borders as the price of co-operation — to remain in power, but Salvini retains the support of anti-mass migration politicians across Europe, such was the impact of his time in government across the continent.
PM Orbán in letter to "brother-in-arms" @matteosalvinimi: We, Hungarians, will never forget that you were the first Western European leader that set out to put an end to the influx of illegal migrants to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea" https://t.co/LoLOTqT6G2
— Zoltan Kovacs (@zoltanspox) August 29, 2019
“Dear Matteo,” wrote the Hungarian prime minister to the Italian populist affectionately, “Allow me to express my appreciation and gratitude for the work that you have done in the past years not only for Italy but also for the whole of Europe.”
The Hungarian leader, who famously — or infamously — built a wall to reduce illegal migration flows which once numbered in the hundreds of thousands by over 99 per cent, said that “we, Hungarians, will never forget that you were the very first Western European leader who intended to stop the flow of illegal migrants into Europe through the Mediterranean.”
Orbán assured the Italian that “Regardless of future developments in the Italian domestic political scene” and the fact that Lega and his own Fidesz party sit in separate groups in the European Parliament, “we look at you as our ally and our fellow combatant in the fight for the preservation of the European Christian heritage and the tackling of migration.”
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 29, 2019
If the M5S-Democratic Party coalition holds, it may be several years before Salvini has a chance to return to government, despite high public support for his party and policies — but, given M5S’s constitution should require the party’s ordinary members to approve its controversial new alliance, it may prove less viable than anti-Salvini forces hope.