Viktor Orbán’s rightwing group hits quota for recognition by EU parliament

Viktor Orbán’s rightwing political movement attracted enough parties on Saturday to achieve recognition from the European Union parliament in a boost for the Hungarian prime minister’s self-styled effort to “change European politics”.

The nationalist and pro-Russia leader announced on 30 June his intention to form an EU parliamentary grouping called “Patriots for Europe”.

The Danish People’s party and the Flemish nationalist pro-independence Vlaams Belang announced on Saturday that they would join, giving Patriots for Europe 23 MEPs – enough to meet the EU parliament’s threshold for formal recognition.

Other parties involved are the Austrian far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the centrist ANO of former Czech prime minister Andrej Babis, the Party for Freedom (PVV) of Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, Portugal’s far-right Chega party and Spain’s Vox.

Orbán said the parties would meet on Monday in Brussels. France’s National Rally could become another ally after the second round of the French legislative elections on Sunday. Italy’s League, led by Matteo Salvini, has also expressed an interest in the new movement but has not confirmed its participation.

With the formation of Patriots for Europe, Orbán is bidding to become the dominant hard-right force in the EU parliament. As well as campaigning for conservative family values and against immigration, the group would push to end European support for Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s invasion.

Orbán, meanwhile, drew a fresh rebuke from the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on Saturday after attending a meeting of the Organisation of Turkic States in Azerbaijan.

Hungary took over the EU’s rotating presidency this month and Orbán on Friday appeared to try to carry its imprimatur into a surprise meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow about the Ukraine war.

EU leaders quickly blasted the visit as not authorised by them and stressed that Orbán was not representing Brussels.

Orbán’s participation at an informal OTS summit in Azerbaijan on Saturday was the latest event where he represented Hungary alone and not the EU, Borrell said.

“Hungary has not received any mandate from the EU council to advance the relations with the Organisation of Turkic States.”

Orbán has sparred with Brussels over his travels. “Are we allowed to have dinner, or do we need a EUCO mandate for that too?” his political director wrote on X/Twitter after the Moscow trip.

The EU also rejected OTS attempts to legitimise the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus by admitting it as an observer, said Borrell. The island of Cyprus has been divided for decades between the internationally recognised, Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, and the Turkish-speaking TRNC, recognised only by Ankara.

The OTS is an international organisation bringing together countries with Turkic languages, founded in 2009 by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Hungary became an observer of the group in 2018.

With Agence France-Presse in Belgium

The Guardian

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