Sunday’s election in Italy is expected to usher in a right-wing coalition government made up of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia with a landslide victory.
One of the main leaders of the expected triumph of this coalition is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Orbán hopes Meloni, who is likely to become Italy’s new prime minister, will support him in his battles with the EU over rule of law, migration, gender issues and help him dilute sanctions on Russia .
Meloni has expressed admiration for the Hungarian prime minister and recently defended him when the European Parliament declared Hungary no longer a full democracy.
Meloni condemned “the use of the rule of law issue as an ideological club to hit those who are considered unaligned”, accusing the EU of bringing Orbán closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin, AFP reported.
Meloni, who hails from the neo-fascist fringes, and Orbán, who has embraced far-right tropes, sound very similar.
Both claimed that Hungarian-born American billionaire philanthropist George Soros is funding mass migration to “invade” Europe and replace its (white) population. They both view migration and LGBTI issues through the prism of demographic decline and argue that nation, family and Christianity are under attack from the left, migrants and gay people.
However, the similarities, toxic as they are, could end there, experts say.
While an Italy led by Meloni – who claims to be Atlanticist, but has railed against the EU – would be likely to have a turbulent relationship with the EU, that would not fundamentally change the bloc’s internal dynamics.
“A right-wing government, with the Brothers of Italy at its center, would reduce Italy’s influence in the EU and make Italy-EU relations more turbulent. But Italy would not become a new Poland or a new Hungary,” said senior researcher Luigi Scazzieri. at the Center for European Reform, wrote in a recent note.
“It’s not a new group from Visegrad, but Meloni’s government will try to work with Poland and Hungary on certain issues,” Eric Maurice, of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a think tank in Brussels, told EUobserver, referring to the four countries. Central European alliance.
Mauritius added that the cooperation will be difficult because no matter the rhetoric in Europe, the three countries differ on migration policies and Russia.
Mauritius said that the most worrying aspect is what Meloni would do at national level and what consequences this would have at EU level, for example on the rule of law or the application of EU law and joint agreements in Italy.
“She could follow the conservative nationalist playbook in not respecting the rule of EU law, backsliding on the national values of women and LGBTI people,” he said, adding however that he is difficult to determine how Meloni would act.
If they win big, Meloni’s coalition might even secure a majority in parliament and be able to rewrite Italy’s constitution, which Orbán did in 2010, laying the groundwork for his 12-year rule.
Maurice said he did not see a U-turn by Meloni on Russia, as a lot “is at stake diplomatically and economically” for Italy. Meloni recently tried hard to sound responsible and consensual: no more question of exiting the eurozone, while sounding pro-NATO and pro-sanctions.
Italy’s economy is heavily dependent on the European recovery fund – of which 191.5 billion euros has been allocated to Rome – and the European Central Bank’s bond-buying program, as Italy struggles with a debt of 150% of GDP.
“Meloni wouldn’t risk the money and she should follow the economic goals,” Maurice said, adding that the new prime minister would not choose a fight that would jeopardize meeting the thresholds to actually release the money.
Meloni is also likely to want to keep France and Spain as allies, not antagonize Germany and the Netherlands to secure eurozone governance reform.
On the other hand, the EU has no interest in getting embroiled in a fight with Meloni as prime minister, Maurice added, even on possible issues of rule of law or values.
“You don’t want to lose the third largest country in the euro zone when you want to act in global affairs or in defense cooperation,” he added.
Nevertheless, it is likely that the political atmosphere in the EU will become more toxic.