Hard-right leaders including Viktor Orban, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, and French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Saturday pledged to join forces and push their Eurosceptic agenda in the European Parliament.
The pact falls short of a fully fledged political alliance but will deepen fears in Brussels that Hungary and Poland’s ruling parties could bolster the far-Right Identity and Democracy (ID) group.
Mr Orban and Mr Morawiecki joined ID members for a summit in Madrid, hosted by Spain’s Vox party, and on Saturday agreed a joint statement calling for the creation of a coordination office “with the aim of joining forces and voting [together] in the European Parliament”.
ID includes members from Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, Matteo Salvini’s Lega from Italy, the Netherlands’s Geert Wilders-led Freedom Party, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Freedom Party of Austria.
If MEPs from Mr Orban’s ruling Fidesz party and Mr Morawiecki’s Law and Justice party joined ID, it would catapult the group to the third-biggest alliance in the Brussels and Strasbourg parliament. It is currently the fifth largest.
Members of pan-EU political groups, which must have at least 23 MEPs from seven different member states, qualify for extra speaking time in the parliament and EU funding.
The Madrid statement also criticised “the ineffectiveness of EU diplomacy” in the Ukraine crisis, backed anti-immigration policies and insisted on the primacy of national constitutions over EU law, which threatens the legal basis of the bloc.
The pact is likely to provide a boost Hungary and Poland, which are at loggerheads with Brussels over the rule of law, migration, and gay rights.
Warsaw has faced accusations from Brussels and the European Court of Justice that it is stuffing the judiciary with the ruling party’s political allies.
In October last year, a Polish court triggered a fresh row with Brussels after ruling the constitution superseded EU law, which was described as “a legal Brexit”.
Poland has since accused the European Commission of blackmail after Brussels withheld coronavirus pandemic recovery funds until the dispute is resolved.
Viktor Orban, who faces elections in April, has been casting around for new allies since his Fidesz party left the centre-Right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the parliament, before it was thrown out in March last year.
Law and Justice party dominates the European Conservatives and Reformists group, which was set up by the Tories after David Cameron took the party out of the EPP in 2009, and may not wish to lose that influential role.
The EPP, Socialists and Democrats, the Macron-dominated Renew Europe lgroup and Greens are pro-EU and larger than ID, which has 70 MEPs from ten countries.
But if Law and Justice and Fidesz joined ID, it would have 108 MEPs; making them the third largest political group in the parliament.
ID would still be outnumbered by pro-EU parties but its size would be evidence of Eurosceptic entrenchment in the parliament after the surge and consolidation of parties such as Ukip and France’s National Rally in the 2014 and 2019 European Parliament elections.