Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had a working meeting in Milan Tuesday with Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and Minister of the Interior, and leader of the populist Northern League (Lega Nord). Europe’s security depends on Salvini’s success, Orbán said, as the two politicians united against migration.
At a press conference held after their meeting, Orbán said Salvini has taken on the “historic mission” to stop migration at sea, an endeavor he said no other country has undertaken. Europe’s security depends on Salvini’s success, he added, and therefore the Italian politician cannot back down.
“This courage inspires respect in us,” Orbán said, adding that Hungary will provide every assistance to Italy’s border protection efforts.
“Hungary has shown that we can stop migrants on land. Salvini has shown migrants can be stopped at sea. We thank him for protecting Europe’s borders,” Orbán said.
Orbán proposed that those who have come to Europe must be taken back to where they came from. Brussels takes the view that this is not possible, but then again - he observed - they said the same about the protection of borders. Orbán said he believes that it is possible, and that it only takes will and political determination. In the Hungarian prime ministerʼs view, migrants should not be distributed in Europe, but taken back home.
Orbán observed that Hungary is pursuing a policy which is based on the tenet that help must be taken where there is trouble, rather than bringing trouble here.
Orbán said that French President Emmanuel Macron “leads the European force that backs migration” and “wants to blow up the European People’s Party in the same way he has done with the French party system.” The other side in this conflict, Orbán said, is comprised of those who “want to stop illegal migration.”
(Editorʼs note: Macronʼs party REM is not currently part of any European parliamentary grouping.)
The French president reacted on Wednesday to the statements by Orbán and Salvini, saying that “if they want to see me as their main opponent, they’re right.” Macron added that he would not “cede any ground to nationalists and those who advocate hate speech.”
Commenting on the meeting, British daily The Telegraph noted that “the supportive visit by Mr Orbán is being seen as the early exchanges ahead of next May’s European parliamentary elections which is being billed as a battle between Europe’s liberals and populists with migration as the defining issue,” adding that the Hungarian prime minister “has become a cheerleader for Europe’s populist right-wing parties.”
In a lengthy report about the meeting, The Guardian observed that “despite sharing the same anti-migration platform, the two leaders appear to disagree on the relocation of asylum seekers. Salvini is pushing for their distribution among EU nations, whereas Orbán stands with Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in saying no.”
Despite the differences in view, the paper quoted Orbán as saying: “Me and Salvini, we seem to share the same destiny. He is my hero.”