William Nattrass William Nattrass

Orban and Salvini’s plan to ‘make Europe great again’

Mateusz Morawiecki, Viktor Orban and Matteo Salvini (photo: Getty)

Change is coming in the European Parliament. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Polish leader Mateusz Morawiecki, and Italian Lega party leader Matteo Salvini held a meeting in Budapest this month to discuss the establishment of a new, conservative European Parliamentary alliance. Forged after the withdrawal of the Hungarian Fidesz party from the centre-right European People’s Party, Salvini claimed the new coalition is intended to ‘make Europe great again’. The trio have agreed to meet for further discussions in Warsaw in May.

The aping of Donald Trump’s slogan suggests an attempt to replicate his brand of conservatism in Europe. Advocating a ‘European renaissance, or an alternative vision to a bureaucratic EU which has drifted away from its citizens’, the new movement has emerged following major disputes between three countries and the EU over cultural issues, such as LGBT rights and migration. Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has claimed the coalition will focus on ‘freedom, family, Christianity and sovereignty’ – an attempt to reassert conservative values in opposition to the progressivism of the EU’s liberal western and northern members.

Traditional values in Hungary, Poland and Italy are often tied to religion. In a 2018 study, 40 per cent of Polish adults described themselves as ‘highly religious’. A 2016 poll meanwhile found 71 per cent of Italians identified as Catholic. Christian values also form a key element of government messaging in Hungary, as a symbol of traditional national identity.

This strength of religious feeling may be partly responsible for recent controversial policies in these countries, which has put them at loggerheads with Brussels. These policies include Poland’s notorious introduction of ‘LGBT-free zones‘ and its near-total ban on abortion, as well as the Hungarian government’s move to define family ‘based on marriage and the parent-child relation’, which asserts that ‘the mother is a woman and the father a man’.

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