Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, tipped for victory in the September 25 general election, has criticised the EU for threatening to suspend financing for Hungary, warning against pushing countries towards Russia.
Her post-Fascist Brothers of Italy party, which has close ties to Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is campaigning on a nationalist platform that calls for a “different Europe” with more powers for member states.
“The true anti-Europeans are those who — at a time when we are under attack and the EU should be more united and stronger than ever — argue that there is an A-team and a B-team in Europe, and do everything to push Hungary into (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s arms,” Meloni told Il Giornale newspaper in an interview published on Monday.
She added: “We must work in exactly the opposite direction — bringing European nations closer together rather than distancing and dividing them.”
Meloni condemned “using the question of the rule of law as an ideological club to hit those considered not aligned”.
The European Union’s executive arm on Sunday proposed suspending 7.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in financing for Hungary, while waiting for Budapest to introduce anti-corruption reforms.
The bloc has been at loggerheads with Hungary for months, with Brussels suspecting Orban’s government of undercutting the rule of law and using EU money to enrich its cronies.
In a television interview on Sunday, Meloni also criticised the EU’s policy towards Poland — another eastern member accused of flouting the rule of law — at a time when it was taking in so many refugees from Ukraine.
However, she added: “Orban will make his choices. I don’t do what Orban says. I don’t do what anyone says… I only look at Italy’s national interest.”
Meloni is campaigning for the election as part of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
The last polls published before a pre-election blackout put the alliance on course to take 46 percent of the vote, well ahead of its rivals.
“I respect the democratic choices of all countries of the world. Orban has done some things right and made some mistakes,” Salvini told a meeting of his party on Sunday.
However, Berlusconi — who has emphasised his more moderate position within the alliance — stressed Orban’s policies “are different from ours and so is his vision of Europe“.