Will the privileged relationship between Meloni and Orbán change European politics? – Salvation
The formation of a new Italian government led by far-right politician Giorgia Meloni has been warmly welcomed by those around Viktor Orban. The prime minister and Hungary’s new president, Katalin Novak, have both released photos of themselves with Giorgia Meloni, who have been in the news since the collapse of Mario Draghi’s coalition government. Relations between Italy’s new prime minister and Orbán date back to 2019, when Meloni and supporters of his post-fascist far-right Fratelli d’Italia party gave Orbán a standing ovation at a meeting of Eurosceptic parties. “Ragazzi di Buda’grazie, grazie!” (“Young people of Budapest, thank you!”).
For Orban, such flirtations are nothing new. His roots with the Italian populists go back to the mid-1990s. He is an admirer of Silvio Berlusconi and learned from him how to manage the media and build a political base. He is also a close friend of Lega leader Matteo Salvini, with whom he launched an anti-immigration initiative ahead of the 2018 European elections, calling 2019 the “year of rebellion”.
A retreating ideological ally
With Meloni, things could be different, at least in the short term. Interestingly, although Orbán and Meloni share a bond of brotherhood, his first international activity as prime minister was to meet French President Emmanuel Macron. He later spoke to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and reportedly assured Italy of continued support for the EU27’s sanctions policy against Russia, as well as its approach to energy and immigration. Italy is a key European member of the eurozone, and its interdependence with the EU may explain Meloni’s initially conciliatory approach to his country’s traditional allies.
Giorgia Meloni took office this winter in the context of Europe’s potentially disastrous inflation (160% of GDP public debt) and energy crisis. He will have to deal with conflicting demands to fulfill his populist campaign promises, maintain a coalition with partners whose vested interests are controlled by the European Union, and implement economic reforms to avoid bankruptcy. To accomplish these tasks, he will need to maintain good relations with Europe’s most powerful leaders, such as Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Although Viktor Orban is an ideological ally, he will remain in the background for the time being, especially due to his alignment with Russian interests and the European Union’s cold attitude towards Ukraine’s support programs.
Nevertheless, cooperation between Meloni and Orbán will take place and will probably be fruitful for both parties. Viktor Orbán waited with “strategic patience” for the next victory of the radical right in Europe. He hopes Meloni’s presence in Europe’s highest decision-making circle will better position him at key EU meetings and give him a new way to influence the EU’s direction. At the same time, he can give support and advice to his relatively inexperienced ally on how to negotiate with Brussels and hold on to power, thanks to his sixteen years in power.
Opportunistic “Europe of Nations”
In this case, the daily battle begins with harsh language and polarizing stories that radicalize society, paralyze the opposition, both at home and abroad. Such language should be used not for Orbán or Meloni as leaders, but for their political allies. In Hungary, this task always rests with the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, Laszlo Kover. “the madness of the sexes” in the country and explained why citizens should sympathize with Moscow’s ambitions in Ukraine. In Italy, the mission could fall to Matteo Salvini, the Minister of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility who built his popularity on anti-immigration policies, or Deputy Minister Galeazzo Bignami, who has previously been photographed wearing an armband emblazoned with the Nazi swastika. Giorgia Meloni can also count on Lorenzo Fontana, who is now president of the Chamber of Deputies, according to gay families. “does not exist”.
In Hungary, the ruling party aspires to a “Europe of nations” that is less rule-based and less interventionist, but more political and more opportunistic. Viktor Orbán wants Georgia Meloni and other right-wing parties in Europe to strengthen this camp and eventually change the European Union and undermine its guiding principles from within.
Despite thirty years of populist representation in Italy, the country’s democratic institutions remain intact: Italy is still a liberal democracy. But when stability is at stake, radical solutions can be sold as more attractive than political institutions and checks and balances. It remains to be seen whether Meloni’s new government coalition will want to follow Hungary’s path. He has not only an advisor but also an ally in Viktor Orban.