In Brief

Far-right ‘axis’ aims to take control of EU

Hungary, Italy and Poland seek anti-immigration majority at upcoming European Parliamentary elections

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has joined fellow far-right leaders from Italy and Poland in proposing a new anti-immigration “axis” that will take control of the EU at the upcoming European Parliamentary elections.

Earlier this week on a visit to Warsaw, Italy’s nationalist Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini called for a “European Spring” to overthrow the Franco-German centre-right hold over the continent.

“We are preparing a new equilibrium and new energy in Europe and Poland and Italy, absolutely, will lead this new European spring,” Salvini said in the Polish capital, adding that “we have a new plan for Europe” intended to replace the dominant “French-German axis”.

Since taking office in 2015, Poland’s right-wing PiS government has put the country “on a collision course with the EU over a string of controversial judicial reforms” says Euractiv News.

Warsaw recently backed down from its reform aimed at retiring Supreme Court judges, under pressure from Brussels. The EU’s top court ruled it threatened to undermine the independence of the courts.

“Rome has also had numerous spats with Brussels,” reports the Daily Mail, “notably over immigration and the country's efforts to implement a big-spending budget to apply populist measures.”

Now Orban, whose own government has faced censure from Brussels, has indicated his intention to join the Rome-Warsaw axis, calling it “one of the most wonderful developments of the year so far”.

“This is a topic that is radically transforming European politics, it’s the defining political process in Europe,” Orban said at a rare press conference in Budapest yesterday. “The party structures, traditionally left or right, are being taken over by a different dimension – those for migration and against immigration.”

Orban said Hungary’s goal was to gain an anti-immigration majority in the European parliament, then in the executive European commission, and later, as national elections change the continent’s political landscape, the European council, where national leaders make the most important EU decisions.

Austria’s right-wing chancellor Sebastian Kurz last year called for an anti-immigration “axis” using the same language. Speaking alongside the right-wing Bavarian CSU party he cited Italy and Germany as possible allies.

Polls suggest that a far-right group could credibly become the second largest grouping in the trans-national parliament, “though divisions between different parties in different countries could prevent them from coalescing around a single banner”, says The Independent.

Nevertheless, “this could seriously slant policy direction for the EU - as it did over the rescuing of migrants in the Mediterranean”, says The Sun.

Under pressure from Italy, the bloc started condemning NGO-run rescue boats for picking up drowning or stranded migrants.

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