Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Matteo Salvini, meeting in Budapest Thursday, expressed agreement on the importance of strong nation states, preserving Europe’s Christian culture and defending Europe’s borders.
Orbán told a joint press conference held with the Italian deputy PM and interior minister that they were both convinced that the bedrock of strong Europe was strong and successful nation states. The continent must prioritise a European culture founded on Christian values, and Europe’s borders must be protected against “the invasion of migrants”, the prime minister said.
Orbán praised Salvini for his efforts curb migration at sea as Hungary had done on land.
He said Europeans would be “better off” listening to Italy and Hungary when it came to border protection instead of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Orbán called Salvini’s visit an “honour”, saying cooperation between their two countries’ governments was at an all-time high.
The prime minister said he had shown Salvini the fence on Hungary’ southern border. He also told the Italian deputy PM that Hungary had spent more than one billion euros on its border protection measures and that Brussels had not reimbursed any of those costs.
Orbán also noted a Hungarian proposal for the establishment of a new body of Schengen interior ministers that would be charged with handling migration policy.
Asked about inter-party cooperation, Orbán said that after the European Parliament elections, the European Union would be governed either by “pro-migration or anti-migration forces”.
The European People’s Party, he said, had both kinds of politicians in its ranks, whereas the left only had politicians who supported migration and parties to the right of the EPP only politicians who opposed it. He said Fidesz wanted the EPP to cooperate with anti-migration forces, adding, however, that this was a minority view within the grouping.
Whether Fidesz remained a member of the EPP, he said, depended on “which way the EPP will turn”. Orbán said if the EPP “ties itself to the left”, which he said was “constantly losing the support of the people”, it would be hard to find a place for Fidesz in that sort of grouping.
The prime minister urged the EPP to be open to cooperating with parties to its right, such as Italy’s ruling Liga party. Europe needs an alliance of anti-migration political forces, he said.
“We’re tired of parties with barely visible support lecturing parties that have significant voter support in their own countries,” Orbán said.
He said this was what had happened with Fidesz in the EPP. He added that the party of Frans Timmermans, the spitzenkandidat of the European Socialists, “has practically ceased to exist as a serious party”.
Asked if Fidesz would join Salvini’s alliance of right-wing parties, Orbán said Hungarians decided for themselves whom they chose to cooperate with.
Commenting on Bavarian state prime minister Markus Soeder’s criticism of his meeting with Salvini, Orbán said: “We expect more respect.”
“We will publicly and openly look for ways to cooperate with Mr Salvini,” he said, adding, however, that he could not give any specific answers concerning any cooperation between Fidesz and Liga before the EP election.
Orbán said he wanted to cooperate with ambitious people who were willing to act “instead of the current Brussels bubble” which he said had “lost touch with the real world”.
The prime minister said he saw four problems that could only be solved by new a European leadership. He said these were Europe’s failure to protect itself and respect its member states, the leadership’s refusal to listen to the people, and the “constant weakening” of the bloc’s economy. Orban expressed agreement with Salvini that Europe needed to “open a new chapter”.
Salvini said that what Europe needed was not a distribution system for migrants but rather a Europe capable of protecting its borders on sea and land.
Hungary conducts lawful checks on people attempting to enter the country, the Liga party’s leader said, adding that Hungary had sealed the border quickly and efficiently.
Salvini said the situation would change for Europe and its peoples after the May 26 EP election. “We aim to define” the EU and its transformation and offer alternatives to the current European leadership, he added.
A “great alliance” will be formed by those who care for Europe’s future, Salvini said.
He insisted that a leftist leadership would lead to “an Islamic caliphate in Europe”. Salvini pledged to “do everything to save the continent from that sad end”.
Regarding migration, Salvini said “the open port policy” had resulted “in many dead” while the policy of control had succeeded in reducing the number of casualties. The current EU policy risks upsetting the peace, he said.
Integration is possible only if the number of migrants is kept under control, he said. Hungary and Italy acknowledges the rights of “real refugees” and works to stop those “who do not flee from war but intend to bring that war to Europe”. The policy of Europe having a place for everyone has “turned the Mediterranean into a mass grave”, he said.
He said his Liga party would “represent the Europe of the future”. Salvini also thanked Orbán for an interview he gave to Italian daily La Stampa. If the European People’s Party shared Orban’s views, “then an alliance would be a beautiful thing”, he said.
Featured image: MTI