Thursday

20th Sep 2018

Macron picks up glove to fight Orban and allies

  • (Photo: Consilium)

The race for the heart of Europe ahead of next year's European Parliament elections has begun.

French president Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday (29 August) accepted a challenge by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini, saying that Europe's populist forces were right to see him as their "main opponent".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"I won't retreat in front of the nationalists and those preaching hatred," Macron told press on a visit to Copenhagen. "If they want to see me as their main opponent, they're right," the pro-Europe politician said.

Italy's Salvini hit back quickly on Wednesday, saying that opinion polls indicated that Macron's real enemies were the French people.

"Instead of giving lectures to other governments, he [Macron] should throw open his own borders, starting from the one at Ventimiglia [with Italy]," Salvini said, according to Italian news agency Ansa.

Macron spoke after Orban met Salvini in Milan on Tuesday (28 August) and the two talked about creating a united political front of anti-migrant forces ahead of the European Parliament (EP) elections next May.

EPP theatre

Hungary's illiberal leader said there were two camps in the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the largest group in the EU parliament, to which he belongs.

France was the leader of the "pro-migration" camp, while Hungary "wanted to stop illegal migration", Orban said, according to Hungarian news wire MTI.

He said he wanted his and Salvini's "position to become the general one in the EPP".

Orban also claimed that Macron's planned to "blow up" the centre-right bloc.

The EPP has emerged as a theatre of conflict between liberal, pro-European, establishment forces and populist-nationalist eurosceptic ones as Europe prepares for the vote.

Orban's increasingly autocratic rule, government corruption, and hate campaigns have irked liberal-minded EPP members, especially from Nordic and Benelux countries.

But the EPP leadership has stood by its "enfant terrible" because it wants to retain Orban's 12 MEPs in its ranks.

It also recognises that his anti-migration stance has appealed to voters across Europe in recent years.

Meanwhile, Macron aims to build his own party in the EU parliament.

His officials have reached out across the political spectrum in the assembly, including to EPP deputies, to woo national delegations and MEPs.

Anti-migrant alliance

Wednesday's tit-for-tat exchange came after Orban and Salvini discussed a new European political alliance.

Orban said it would "join different energies with a common goal", and would "exclude the left-wing parties and brings to the fore the identities and values that our governments represent".

He added that he wanted to spread his anti-immigrant views within the EPP, which also includes German chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

He warned the EPP earlier in June that if it did not support his ideas, he could also splinter off in a new political formation.

Orban has called Salvini, who hails from the far-right END group in parliament, a "hero", but the two make uneasy bedfellows.

Hungary has refused to take in any migrants under EU schemes even though Italy has pushed for help.

But this underlines how transformative the common anti-migrant stance can be for right-wing, nationalist parties which have previously struggled to unite in the EP in the face of mainstream politics.

No solution

Macron, in a speech to French ambassadors on Monday (27 August), pointed to the opportunism of Italy and Hungary when it comes to benefitting from the EU, yet still leading a eurosceptic policy.

"Italy is against Europe when it doesn't show solidarity, but it is for the Europe of structural funds ... Viktor Orban's Hungary has never been against the Europe of structural funds, of common agriculture policy, but it is against Europe when it comes to holding grand speeches on Christianity," the French president said.

"These xenophobes bring no solutions to the problems they point at ... All those with a nationalistic or unilateralist voice agree to denounce Europe, but they rarely agree to find common solutions, including for themselves. The axes we are told about, bring no solution - none," Macron said, referring to an emerging alliance between Hungary, Italy, and Austria.

In Milan on Tuesday several hundred protestors demonstrated against Orban and the two politicians' hardline policies.

"We need to resist against an idea of Europe of hate and barbed wire, which is what Salvini and Orban propose," Emanuele Fiano, a prominent member of the opposition Democratic Party said, according to Bloomberg.

Orban allies divided in vote on Hungary sanctions probe

The EU parliament's civil liberties committee in a draft report calls on member states to deal with Hungary's backsliding on EU rules. Lawmakers from the centre-right European People's Party were split over the critical report.

Macron and Orban defend opposing EU visions

Two models - of deeper integration and liberal values, versus a Europe of strong and illiberal nations - will define voters' choices in the EU elections in 2019.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

Hungary vote exposes EU rift on populism

MEPs will vote next week on whether to urge member states to investigate Hungary on EU values. Budapest calls it "liberal fundamentalism", with the EPP in a difficult position.

News in Brief

  1. UK's Brexit plan 'won't work', says EU's Tusk
  2. Austria ex-chancellor hints at running for Juncker's job
  3. Greece to move asylum-seekers from overcrowded Lesbos camp
  4. Transatlantic soya trade soars due to trade wars
  5. EU tables strategy for connecting Europe and Asia
  6. Bulgaria backs Hungary in dispute with EU
  7. Trump urged Spain to build Sahara wall to stop migrants
  8. EU-Arab League summit proposed for February in Egypt

Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU

The justice commissioner says the accommodation-rental website will better inform users about prices, and about the legal status of their 'hosts'. Facebook, however, could face sanctions if it doesn't comply with EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us