Wednesday

17th Jul 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.

Merkel and Macron split over Weber presidency

EU heads of government have their first face-to-faces discussions after the European elections on who should lead the EU commission. They are unlikely to decide quickly - with the parliament also divided over the candidates.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  2. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  3. EU proposes yearly rule-of-law 'reviews'
  4. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  5. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  6. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  7. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  8. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us