Foreign Affairs

Meloni-Orban: Many Similarities and Some Differences

June 2024
By Paolo Bozzacchi

Political Friends. Between similarities and differences. The script of the Meloni-Orban meeting yesterday was written collaboratively. Italy and Hungary play the same notes on migrant management, EU competitiveness, and demography. They are less in tune on the ongoing negotiations in Brussels for key European positions (Council and Commission) and on the Ukraine dossier. This comes at the dawn of the Hungarian presidency of the EU, which will begin next week.

Energy as the New Strength
Over 600 Italian companies operate in Hungary. “Italy is our fifth economic partner,” Orban emphasized. And with the Slovenian go-ahead, Rome and Budapest are considering enhancing energy cooperation by creating a direct link for liquid gas. In the background, a tandem project on EU competitiveness is being consolidated. “Europe must ensure that the green transition does not burden the economy. Without improving competitiveness, we will lose European jobs.”

Full Agreement on Migrant Management and the Mattei Plan
“We will support everything that Prime Minister Meloni has proposed on migration.” Orban’s reference is to external hotspots, of which Italy (in Albania) and Hungary (in Serbia) are great admirers. Moreover, Orban fully appreciates the Italian Mattei Plan. “Either there is a development project for Africa, or there will be a mass migration that we will not be able to manage.” This is a significant political gain for the Italian government.

Distance on EU Positioning
Meloni is in dialogue with the EPP, working to secure a significant position for Italy, such as a Vice Presidency of the next European Commission. Orban not only rejects the idea of joining the ECR group, which includes Brothers of Italy, because it includes a “very anti-Hungarian Romanian party” and due to its positions on Ukraine, but he is also very critical of the “partisan pact on top jobs that does not reflect the original spirit of the EU.” He seems inclined to form a new right-wing group together with Fico’s party in Slovakia and former Czech Prime Minister Babis, with the clear goal of representing the Visegrad countries. In light of these differences, the only possible path of rapprochement for Meloni and Orban lies in the Hungarian Prime Minister’s words: “We are committed to strengthening European right-wing parties even if we are not in the same group.” Meloni: “Our positions do not always coincide, but I appreciate Hungary’s position in the EU and NATO, which allows allies to make important decisions even when it disagrees.” The implicit reference is also to Budapest’s veto on unlocking military aid from the European Peace Facility to the EU, held hostage by Orban’s veto.