Saturday

19th Jan 2019

Hungary offers cautious support to Bannon project

The Hungarian government is cautiously supporting plans by US firebrand Steve Bannon to unite Eurosceptic and populist forces ahead of next year's European parliament election.

Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary's chief government spokesperson, on Monday (10 September) said they "welcome novel political ideas and approaches" when asked about Bannon's initiative - but noted Budapest will lead its own agenda.

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

"If we find partners that are talking about political - if you like philosophical - social issues, according to the mandate we have from the Hungarian people, we welcome that but we are very cautious about any foreign influence," he told reporters in Brussels.

Bannon, the US far-right former chief strategist to Donald Trump, has over the summer founded his anti-establishment group, the Movement.

He was warmly received over the summer by Hungary's right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban as part of a wider push to infuse and possibly replace liberal democratic thought with conservative political dogma.

Orban and Bannon had met and spoken together in Budapest, share similar anti-liberal views, and perceive asylum seekers and refugees through a national security prism.

But Hungary appears to be keeping Bannon at arm's length - while at the same time finding more in common with the anti-migrant rhetoric pushed by Italy's far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini.

Orban and Salvini in late August vowed to work together to stem migration flows in a strategic allegiance that also aims to tackle the progressive political movement led by French president Emmanuel Macron ahead of the next year's European parliament election.

"If they wanted to see me as their main opponent, they were right to do so," said Macron last month.

Salvini has since joined the Movement, posing alongside with Bannon in a photo dated 7 September following a meeting in Rome.

"He is in!" tweeted Mischael Modrikamen, a Belgian politician who is also a member of Bannon's group.

The political allegiances shaping up ahead of the European parliament election reflect a hardening tone against migration and refugees.

The European Commission is this week set to unveil new measures to deter migrants, in terms of shoring up external borders and getting foreign states to prevent them from leaving. It means further boosting the EU's border agency Frontex and stepping up returns of rejected asylum seekers.

The reported measures reflect how the EU states appear more willing to coordinate and work together on external aspects of migration but wrangle and dither over sharing responsibilities across their own borders.

For Hungary, it also exposes political party tensions in the European parliament over a damning report on the country by Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini, set to be debated at the European parliament plenary in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Some dozen Orban Fidesz party loyalists sit in the European parliament's largest political group, the centre-right EPP.

Last week, EPP leader Manfred Weber, announced his candidacy to become president of the European Commission.

But the German conservative then declined questions from the international press, in a move that raised further questions given Sargentini's looming report.

Meanwhile, Hungary says it has no intention to split from the EPP, or join or create another political entity within the EU institution.

At Monday's press conference, Kovacs was clear.

"We belong to the EPP and instead of leaving, which many would probably like to see, we would rather take it the other way around and demonstrate for the EPP, that our stance, our perspective, is something that could help the EPP," he said.

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.

EUobserved

Weber in balancing act en route to Berlaymont

The German centre-right MEP initially refused to take press questions. Meanwhile, he will have to find a way to distinguish himself from current commission president Juncker.

Orban's allies want concessions ahead of critical vote

MEPs in Strasbourg debated triggering the Article 7 sanctions procedure against Hungary, for infringing EU rules and values - while prime minister Viktor Orban claimed the parliament was about to punish Hungarians for protecting Europe's borders from immigrants.

Opinion

'The kids aren't alt-right'

Steve Bannon's demolition derby is behind the curve of EU politics, writes Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us