Shortly after political leaders in Europe met in Milan to pursuing forming an alliance of alternative right wing parties, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has expressed the hope that the newly united populist movement will become biggest party in the next European Parliament. Called “Towards a Europe with Common Sense,” the alliance will fuse all of the Europe’s right-wing populists into one single movement just ahead of European elections in May.
Salvini hopes that this alliance can form a majority bloc in the European Parliament, uniting other far-right parties that share the same objectives, ideals, and values. The primary aim of this bloc would be protect borders and national identities.
Another goal of the alliance is to receive greater support for Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, by adding about 10,000 more people. To the right-wing parties, a stronger Frontex means stronger national security.
In the US, former Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon has been very vocal in his support for Salvini, believing he is the key to solving Europe’s problems. A founding member of The Movement, a far-right organization that supports right- wing nationalist parties across Europe, Bannon’s support has been instrumental in funding Salvini’s party in Italy.
While Mr. Salvini has publicly kept his distance from Bannon in the past, he still uses Bannon’s similar ‘alt-right’ rhetoric in many speeches. Additionally, in September Mr. Salvini met Mr. Bannon in Rome, where Bannon declared that Italy was an essential player in the global power struggle. Bloomberg reports that Bannon called Italy the ‘center of the universe’ during a press conference, highlighting Salvini’s status as a global political figure and applauding his efforts to represent his mission for both Europe and his country.
According to CNN, Salvini’s stance stems from his hardline approach to recent migration flows from North Africa into Italy. Back in June 2018, he fulfilled his promise of closing Italy’s ports to rescue boats, and fought against German Chancellor Merkel’s policy of redistributing refugees who enter Europe clandestinely.
Salvini has recently been promoting the potential right-wing alliance at press conferences across Italy, but with only seven weeks left until the European election, it still remains unclear if any of Europe’s other nativist movements will join him. The Economist argues that other movements may see his “new European Dream” as more of an “Italian dream” than anything concrete.
With the European elections quickly approaching, populist parties in Europe are seizing the opportunity to expand their power across Europe. The New York Times reports that if “Towards a Europe with Common Sense” does gain seats in the European Parliament, it will form a new group called the “European Alliance of Peoples and Nations.”
However, the future of this new alliance is still uncertain, as it is missing the support of several key players on the European political stage. The proposed project would benefit greatly from the support of right-wing Hungarian Fidesz party leader Victor Orban, who has yet to sign onto the agreement.
Likewise, many right-wing parties in Germany and Scandinavia oppose Salvini’s movement because they still lean more towards free-market economies, and right-wing parties in France more protectionist in nature. In additional, parties in Poland does not share the warm relationship that Mr. Salvini and other populist parties have with Russia.
Even though these parties do share similarities when it comes to strong borders, anti-migrant policies, and a strong emphasis on traditional national identities, Europe’s populists clearly disagree on many issues. Due to all of the uncertainty that continues to permeate this election cycle, it appears that the fate of Salvini’s proposed movement is not yet set in stone.