Babis, Orban, and Herbert Kickl (FPO). Credit: Herbert Kickl, via Facebook

ANO Forms New European Political Alliance With Hungary’s Fidesz and Austria’s FPO

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Former Czech PM Andrej Babis’s ANO is establishing a new political alliance with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s Fidesz and Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO). The three parties are calling on other European parties to join them, with the aim of establishing a new faction in the European Parliament, FPO head Herbert Kickl told journalists in Vienna yesterday.

Both Babis and Orban attended the Vienna meeting in person, and the three leaders held a press conference surrounded by screens with signs reading ‘Patriots for Europe’.

Hungary starts its six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union today.

All three leaders gave speeches before signing the manifesto of the new alliance. Among other things, they call for more decision-making at national level, increased defences at the EU external borders to deter refugees, and national opposition to the European Green Deal.

Kickl said he believed that more European parties will join them in the coming days. So far, there has been speculation about Slovak PM Robert Fico’s Smer-SD and the Polish conservative Law and Justice (PiS).

Kickl described the new alliance as a “carrier rocket” for the parties’ aim to establish a European parliamentary faction.

Discussions between Babis, Orban, and Kickl. Credit: Herbert Kickl, via Facebook

Orban said he believed that the forthcoming faction would soon become the strongest right-wing grouping in European politics. Currently, the largest Eurosceptic right-wing group is the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) faction with 83 members, which includes the Czech Civic Democratic Party (ODS).

“A new era is beginning,” said Orban, claiming that the new faction will change European politics. Kickl, who may win the post of Austrian chancellor in parliamentary elections in September, according to the AFP agency, said that “Today is a historic day.”

Babis said that the new group would have an agenda focused on sovereignty, security, fighting “illegal migration”, and changing the European Green Deal. “We will change European politics to serve nations and our people again. We will prioritise national sovereignty over federalism, freedom over commands and peace over war,” he said. He argued that European climate policy threatens the competitiveness of the European economy.  

Petr Kaniok, a political scientist from Brno’s Masaryk University, told CTK the new alliance was motivated by their desire to score political points on the domestic scene by criticising the EU. He added that the new faction can only be expected to reject EU policies, offer minimal alternative solutions of its own, and use very aggressive rhetoric.

“From my point of view, its birth is clearly motivated by an effort to score domestic points on criticism of the EU,” Kaniok said.

Representatives of Czech government parties were also critical of the new alliance.

“A nationalist faction is being created which will not aim to achieve anything in Europe, but is being created for the sake of the interests of national politicians at home,” said newly elected Czech MEP Jan Farsky (STAN). He said the faction would put forward proposals with no chance of succeeding in the EP, but which would allow them to define themselves against the EU, which he added was “in Russia’s interest”.

“Both Orban and the FPO have long rejected support for Ukraine and also question whether Russia is a threat to Europe,” said MEP Veronika Vrecionova (ODS). She said it was now confirmed that ANO and Babis were a security threat to the Czech Republic, and “a friend of Russia’s friends”.

Czech TOP 09 leader and parliamentary speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova criticised the deepening alliance between Babis and Orban, and described the new alliance as “Russia’s fifth column in the EU.”

With MEPs from three EU member states, the newly declared political alliance needs MEPs from at least four other countries to form a new faction in the European Parliament. The minimum number of MEPs for a faction is set at 23, which the new alliance already meets, as ANO, Fidesz and FPO have seven, eleven and six seats in the new EP, respectively.

In the early June European Parliament elections, parties dissatisfied with the EU’s policies gained ground in a handful of countries, including in France and Germany, where the governing parties were heavily beaten.

ANO, Fidesz and FPO won the EU elections in their respective countries. More than a week ago, ANO announced its withdrawal from the Renew group in the EP as well as from the ALDE party. Meanwhile, Austria’s FPO and France’s National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen are in the Identity and Democracy faction. Fidesz was originally a member of Liberal International until 2000, when it joined the European People’s Party. It remained a member until 2021, and has been a non-attached member of the EP since.

Existing or new EP factions must announce their name and composition by 15 July. The constituent plenary session of the new European Parliament, which is made up of 720 MEPs, will take place in Strasbourg from 16-19 July.

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