Last Thursday the heads of the EUs most dominant right-wing populist parties; Mateo Salvini, Viktor Orban and Mateusz Morawiecki met in Budapest for exploratory talks. After which they concluded that Europe must return to its traditional values. It’s hard to define what the three men mean by ‘traditional values.' The closest we can get to the definition of "Traditional Values" are comments made by the Polish Primeminister who stated that “We cannot forget the roots of European integration. Freedom, sovereign states and the family are core values.” Salvini, Orban and Morawiekci also announced that they will cooperate closely and focus on forming a broad document which will propose their solutions for the future of Europe. The three have already announced that they hope to meet again in May, this time in Warsaw.
What is surprising is that Marine Le Pen, the leader of Front National, was not present at the meeting despite her views falling in line with the three heads of state. Poland’s PiS though sees Le Pen as being too pro-Russian - a potential reason as to why she was not present.
PiS, which is a fairly anti-Russian party, seems to have no problems with forming an alliance with two of the EUs most pro-Putin groups: Lega and Fidesz. Over the last few years Salvini has been an outspoken critic of the sanctions against Russia. While Poland’s PiS usually favoured tougher sanctions, Fidesz on the other side was usually in the middle. In an interview for Reuters in 2020, when asked about whether the EU should impose further sanctions on Russia, Orban said that “From the Hungarian point of view, we don’t see why we should do that. But if the European Union would like to initiate that, we are ready to consider.” He then stated that the EU should reverse some of the sanctions it imposed on Russia. In 2019, Salvini, while Deputy PM, refused to answer questions as to whether or not his party had taken money from Russia after a secret recording reached the public light which suggested that that was the case.
It is widely viewed in Poland as embarrassing for their Prime Minister to appear alongside such Pro-Russian politicians. Especially when taking into account that Poland has become a voice for Ukraine within the EU. When in 2014 Euromaidan protests began it was the Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski who rallied his German and French counterparts and encouraged them to travel to Kiev along with him, for talks with the then Ukrainian government and opposition which was occupying the Euromaidan. Sikorski played a crucial role in the final hours of Yanukovych’s Presidency. While Donald Tusk who was the Prime Minister of Poland at the time was a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s integrity and territorial sovereignty, even after becoming the President of the EU council he always strived to keep Ukraine close to the EU as well as voice its concerns during EU council meetings.
One of the ideas floated around after the meeting was the possibility of creating a new right-wing bloc in the EU parliament. If such a bloc is created it could potentially account for 148 seats; that is if European Conservatives and Reformists and Identity and Democracy merge together. It is not clear though whether other members of ECR or ID would join the new bloc. What is clear is that if they do then such bloc would be the second largest in the EU parliament.
What can we expect from this loose alliance? While creating a new right-wing bloc is on the table, it would be extremely hard to fulfil, as the ECR and ID would have to dissolve its structures and its MEPs would very likely have to resign from EU parliamentary committees. Nothing however is set in stone, such a bloc would definitely gain some momentum, but would it be enough to last until the next EU elections? Probably not. Many PiS politicians have approached the idea with a bit of distance. As for Lega and its views on Russia, remain a problem. On other issues such as LGBT, abortion, religion, and EU integration the three parties seem to have found some common ground. Recently they all voted against declaring the EU an LGBT+ Freedom Zone and criticised the EU parliament for holding a debate on abortion in Poland when the Polish Constitutional Tribunal decided to toughen the polish abortion law. The next meeting for the three leaders has been scheduled for May, where it is likely these right-wing ideas will become proposals.