May Le Pen, Orbán and Fico’s parties form a new group at the European Parliament?

Marine Le Pen @MLP_officiel
Marine Le Pen congratulates Viktor Orbán for his victory in the 2022 parliamentary elections in Hungary.

Last January, a secret meeting between AfD leading members, neo-nazis and representatives of the Identitarian Movement in Potsdam to discuss a plan of expelling German citizens of foreign origin to North Africa caused a scandal with national and international dimensions. One of the consequences was the threat by Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader, to dissolve the Identity and Democracy (ID) group at the European Parliament after the European elections of June 2024. 

Le Pen condemned the Potsdam meeting, expressed outrage at the “remigration” plan, and asked the AfD leadership to provide explanations. 

However, the most extremist tendency of the AfD is rising inside the party and in the eastern states of Germany. Björn Höcke, one of the most prominent figures, leader of the AfD parliamentary group in the state parliament of Thuringia and of an internal faction of the party known as Der Flügel (The Wing), now officially dissolved, is considered the most influential politician inside the party. Höcke is leading a tendency with xenophobic, racist, and anti-Semitic views and is under the surveillance of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).  

Thus, the problem persists, and Le Pen will have to consider the risks an alliance with AfD represents for her primary target: becoming the next French President in the 2027 presidential elections.

What does that mean? Her party, the National Rally (Rassemblement National – RN), is expected to pass from 18 MEPs – elected in the 2019 European elections- to 28! Without a political group in the European Parliament, RN MEPs should stay in the Non-Inscrits (NI) group, which will restrict their movements and impact. Consequently, Le Pen is searching for a group willing to accept the RN’s European lawmakers. If not, the RN should opt to establish a new parliamentary group.       

Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary and known for his racist, xenophobic and far-right views, is experiencing isolation among the leaders of the EU member states. His party, Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance, was suspended from the EPP in March 2019 due to issues related to rule of law breaches, the persecution of independent judiciary and freedom of the press. Since then, Fidesz’ MEPs belonged to the NI “group”. Thus, Orbán is also searching for a group to host Fidesz’s MEPs.    

Moreover, another is searching for a “home” at the European Parliament. Robert Fico, the authoritarian Prime Minister of Slovakia, has a long history of political scandals affecting the rule of law in his country. Fico’s party was a member of PES – the party of the European Socialists – until its suspension in October 2023. Depicted as a “left populist party”, Direction – Social Democracy (Smer–SD) has incorporated the entire arsenal of far-right rhetoric, including statements against journalists and media freedom, anti-LGBTI and anti-Roma propaganda, among others. In addition, one of Fico’s government partners is the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), a party affiliated with the ID. 

Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán, and Robert Fico share common views on the major issues of today’s politics. What is more, they are all in favour of Russian interests in Europe, agree with Vladimir Putin‘s narratives, and try to create obstacles in the EU’s support of Ukraine.

Can they form a parliamentary group? There seem to be no “ideological” obstacles for the French and Hungarian parties. It is to see if Fico will decide to stop pretending to be a “leftist” and accept reality: his partners can only be people from the far-right political environment.

Is a Le Pen and Melloni alliance possible?

During the last year, some analysts advanced the idea of a rapprochement between the two female leaders, which could lead to a partnership in the European Parliament. Although we cannot exclude “a la carte” alliances between the two far-right parties, permanent cooperation seems complicated. 

Of course, there are affinities between the two parties, the French RN and the Italian Fd’I, but there are also substantial differences in their political agendas and ideological approaches.  

Both desire Donald Trump‘s re-election in the USA. However, their approach is fundamentally different. Meloni comes from the neo-fascist political milieu, which was particularly close to the Atlantic Alliance. Le Pen represents the anti-US and anti-NATO tradition of the French right. 

On July 2023, Meloni visited Washington and met with President Jo Biden. The two issued a press release after their meeting reaffirming that “both leaders also stand with Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s illegal aggression. The United States and Italy will continue to provide political, military, financial, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine for as long as it takes, with the aim to reach a just and lasting peace that fully respects the UN Charter and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. Meloni thinks they will have a common political base with Trump if he is re-elected. However, she is clear about Italy’s role in NATO.

On the other hand, Le Pen, who shares the same “values” as Trump, expects his re-election will remove the USA from European Affairs, including EU-US cooperation and the war in Ukraine. 

However, even if the two parties manage to overcome their differences, the war in Ukraine remains a fundamental burden.

As we saw, Meloni is committed to defending Ukraine and supports any EU and NATO effort to help Kyiv. On the other hand, Le Pen has tight relations with Putin and his regime and is against the delivery of assistance to Ukraine.

Several ECR members rejected the idea of hosting Orbán’s party in the ECR last February, so they are expected to deny entry to RN.    

Orbán’ Fidesz at the European Parliament

Orbán established an authoritarian rule in Hungary that allowed him to receive the “lion’s share” in any electoral confrontation. Moreover, he controls all Hungarian media and brainwashes public opinion.

As a result, it is not a surprise that polls have indicated Fidesz as the winner of the next European elections. The party would elect at least 12 MEPs, the same as in 2019.  

The Hungarian Prime Minister is an autoproclamed defender of Christianity in Europe, a crusader against the LGBTI “ideology”, and a hunter of immigrants and refugees. In addition to the grave human rights issues caused by the Hungarian government, Orbán is Putin’s ally. His positions constantly undermine the EU efforts to help Ukraine.

However, he understands his condition as a pariah in Europe.

He hopes for Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections, expecting substantial political support for him. 

Moreover, he is in search of new alliances at the EU level.

Last February, he attempted to open a channel with the ECR, envisaging joining the group after the European elections. However, the ECR blocked him after four parties declared ready to leave the group if Orbán became a member. 

Joining Le Pen and Fico, he could restrict its isolation and increase its presence in the EP.

Another case of isolation: Fico’s SMER-SD 

After returning for the fourth time in government, Robert Fico introduced an amendment to the Criminal Code. This raised concerns to opposition parties and the European Commission, as it would help members of the SMER-SD who are accused of criminal activities avoid legal trouble. In addition, Fico’s government envisages cracking down on the freedom of the press, assisted by his partners of the SNS. 

SMER-SD is expected to increase its number of MEPs from 2 to 5 after the European elections. However, its MEPs will stand with the rest of the NI members. 

Thus, Fico would eventually overcome “ideological barriers” and join Le Pen and Orbán in a new parliamentary group. After all, such a group would have two prime ministers, a government vice president, and a candidate for the French presidency.  

Who can join the “club”?

A parliamentary group needs 24 MEPs from seven countries. If the three parties agree to cooperate, the new group will have at least 45 MEPs from 3 countries. Attracting less extremist parties from the ID group representing other countries would be necessary.

Matteo Salvini‘s League could be the first candidate. Salvini is trying to move his party to more moderate positions as it is in decline. The League is expected to lose up to 16 MEPs and elect only seven. Moreover, Le Pen has always supported Salvini. 

Geert Wilders is known for his hysteric Islamophobia. Its affiliation with the most radical of the far-right parties cost him the participation in a coalition government in the Netherlands. Several democratic parties applied a “cordon sanitaire” around the Party for Freedom (Pvv) denying it any cooperation. Consequently, he needs a more “institutionalised” environment to move. In addition, the close collaboration and affinity of ideas between Wilders and Le Pen dates back to at least 2014, when the two tried to form a far-right group in the EP. Polls indicate the Pvv could elect up to 9 MEPs and enter again the European Parliament.

Another ally of Le Pen is the Czech Tomio Okamura, whose party Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) entered the European Parliament in 2019 with 1 MEP. Okamura’s relations with Le Pen date back to 2017, when she endorsed SPD before the 2017 Czech legislative election. The party could elect 2 MEPs. However, as it forms a coalition with another far-right party, the Tricolour Citizens’ Movement (Trikolóra), it is unclear if both parties would join Le Pen.  

A seventh member of the new group could be the Chega party from Portugal. Its leader, André Ventura, has also experienced a “cordon sanitaire” as the country’s two main political parties blocked its participation in a government coalition last month. Chega is expected to elect up to three MEPs in the new EP. However, the Spanish Vox greatly assisted Chega during the recent electoral campaign, so Ventura may consider following the Spaniards in the ECR group. 

If so, the new group could recruit an MEP from another party. Political parties often facilitate the creation of a group in the Parliament by allowing their MEPs to join a group under formation. A most recent case was the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) in October 2014, when it recruited a Polish far-right deputy to reach the number of MEPs from seven countries.   

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