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Berlusconi’s new project: The Orbanisation of Europe

Viktor Orban (left side) and Silvio Berlusconi. The two politicians are good friends and they want to push the EPP to more right wing positions [personal archive]

A more right wing-oriented Europe, with the EPP in the lead. This is Silvio Berlusconi’s idea for the next European legislature, according to what he said in his latest interview. The leader of Forza Italia is ready for the great unprecedented transformation of the European Parliament. He wants the European People’s Party to abandon once and for all grand coalitions with the social-democrats, in order to make alliances with the conservatives and the eurosceptic forces.

“I foresee that the EPP, to which Forza Italia belongs, would avoid to get allied with the left wing, in order to pave the way for new alliances with the Conservatives and also with those who declare themselves sovereigntists-nationalists”, the 82-old man said. Then he added: “There is already an agreement within the leaders of the European People’s Party”.

A completely new coalition

It is common understanding that after the May elections the traditional pro-European political groups will join the forces to oppose the anti-EU factions. This kind of reading of the political chart clearly underestimates – or it doesn’t even consider at all – the possibility of a completely different scenario.

Until now the traditional political groups have always been the EPP, the S&D, ALDE and the Greens. They had – and they still have – different political programmes, but they have always shared the basic principles and the basic values of the EU. Despite the different visions of Europe, they have always worked to keep the European project alive, even in grand-coalitions.

Another EPP-S&D alliance cannot be taken for granted. In fact the leader of Fidesz and prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán is at work to shape the EPP on his personal image. “We are the EPP”, the Hungarian head of government stated last October, leaving the traditional party meeting organized before the summit of the European Council.

Orbán has been pushing the EPP more and more beyond the traditional political line held by the strongest European party (and, as a consequence, the biggest parliamentary group). Orbán’s domestic policies are a source of major concern for the other members of the EPP, basically split over the destiny of Fidesz membership.

The problem with Orbán is the rule of law. This is considered one of the basic rules for all the EU member states. Furthermore, the Polish ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), member of the ECR group, is also in trouble with the EU because of the alleged infringement of the rule of law. An eventual coalition between the EPP and the ECR after the European elections would see for the first time the history of the European Parliament the major political family working together with those who put in question the EU as such.

Sweden and Belgium would like Fidesz to be pushed out from the EPP party, because of the rule of law issue. According to these delegations it is not acceptable to ignore the fundamental values of the EU. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also said that Orbán has no place any longer in the EPP family. Despite that, Fidesz is still onboard.

Rome-Budapest axis, with Berlusconi as mediator

Forza Italia is onboard, too. It is not the strongest Italian party it used to be. Nevertheless, it is expected to elect MEPs at the European elections. With Berlusconi giving a hand to Orbán in order to shift the EPP to more far right positions, the possibility of a major political change in the next European Parliament increases. Although it is not clear what the EPP could get from the eurosceptics.

“The sovereignism of these people should become a European sovereignism”, Berlusconi said referring to the political parties expected to sit in the ECR and in other groups such as ENF. “The EU as it is now doesn’t work, so Europe should return to the original project of the founding fathers”.

The point is that sovereignists and nationalists are not pro-European by definition. It is not clear how such politicians could embrace an integration project. Berlusconi seems to be sure to be able to convince them about the need of being more united, and he proposed himself as facilitator – or even mediator – in this apparently difficult task.

Speaking of himself in third person, Berlusconi said “the situation is very critical for Italy, Europe and the world, and I thought that the old Berlusconi can be still useful for Italy, Europe and the world thanks to his experience as entrepreneur and politician”.

Berlusconi and Orbán are very good friends. At the same time Berlusconi has a personal story of friendship with The League. At the last Italian general elections Forza Italia and The League ran together in coalition. Then the leader of The League, Matteo Salvini, decided to be in government with the Five Stars Movement. But there is no doubt that Berlusconi could facilitate a new partnership with Salvini at European level.

All united against China

Berlusconi called for a United Europe against China, “a totalitarian and hegemonic” reality that is a real threat for the EU and its member states. According to the leader of Forza Italia it is time to act all together in order to maintain Europe in a dominant geopolitical position. In front of the common enemy, anti-Europeans should set aside their scepticism. Thus spoke Berlusconi.  

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