Le Pen, Salvini to Join Orban’s New Far-Right EU Alliance

(Bloomberg) -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nascent European Union alliance got a boost of influence Monday, with two major far—right parties — led by France’s Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Matteo Salvini — agreed to join it.

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A spokesman for the Hungarian leader, Zoltan Kovacs, announced the moves by Le Pen and Salvini in posts on X Monday, where he said the new grouping of nationalists could become the third largest political alliance in the European Parliament.

“Our long-term goal is to change European policy making,” Kinga Gal, a Hungarian lawmaker named as the new group’s vice chairman, said at a new conference Monday in Brussels. “We firmly say no to illegal migration,” adding that they hoped other parties and lawmakers will still join them.

With backing from Le Pen and Salvini, the alliance appears cleared the hurdles for becoming formally recognized as a party grouping in parliament, which requires membership from lawmakers in at least seven countries. Other members include Spanish far-right party Vox, which ditched Giorgia Meloni’s European Conservatives and Reformists Group, as well as far-right parties in Austria and Czech Republic.

Belgium’s far-right Dutch-speaking Vlaams Belang party said over the weekend that it will also join Orban’s group, which is named Patriots for Europe.

The political maneuvering is set to boost the power and the influence of the new group, as Orban aims to expand his influence in the EU, including on foreign policy, with an unannounced trip Monday to China to meet Xi Jinping. Orban’s new alliance also provides a home for parties that had been part of the Le Pen-led Identity and Democracy group.

Another ID member, the Alternative for Germany party, is mired in a series of scandals and missteps, most notably when its lead candidate in the EU election was quoted as saying that not all members of the Nazi SS paramilitary organization were criminals. Le Pen, who has sought to move her party away from the fringes, has been particularly critical of AfD recently.

Le Pen’s party will be the largest in the new grouping, which so far includes 84 members in about a dozen countries, according to Kovacs.

“Today, after a lot of work, today in Brussels a large Patriots group is born. It will be crucial to change the future of this Europe,’ Salvini, the leader of the League party and a junior member in Meloni’s government, wrote in a post on X Monday.

A similar path was outlined by Jordan Bardella, the president of Le Pen’s National Rally party, or RN, in the hours following the results of the French vote on Sunday.

“Tomorrow, the RN will join a large group, that will weigh on European balances of power and fight against migratory submersion,” said Bardella, who was named as the chairman of the new group.

Orban unveiled his new grouping at the end of last month as he took over the EU presidency for six months. It will also involve the dissolution of the Le Pen’s ID group, which was set up in 2019 to represent far-right and extreme nationalist views across the bloc.

The potential strength of the newly formed alliance is also a blow for Meloni, who sought to carve out a leading role as far-right leader following the European vote. If all the changes will be confirmed, her political group will end up being smaller than the Orban-led one.

--With assistance from Zoltan Simon, Lyubov Pronina and Wout Vergauwen.

(Updates with quote from member of new alliance in third paragraph)

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