Chances and challenges facing Hungarian–Polish–Italian conservative collaboration
Soon after Fidesz and the European People’s Party parted ways in the spring of 2021, it was Mateusz Morawiecki and Matteo Salvini who received an invitation for the first European multilateral conservative meeting hosted by Viktor Orbán in Budapest. At first glance, the group of participants reflected the political reality of those days; Orbán and Morawiecki were the only stable right-wing government leaders in Europe, while Italy’s right-wing parties anticipated that they would form a government and lead the country sooner or later. At the time Salvini was the head of the strongest party of the future alliance, Lega. Thus, it seemed obvious that Orbán would reach out to these partners when he started repositioning Fidesz in the European party landscape, and marking the country’s international priorities. However, there is and always has been far more to the Hungarian–Polish–Italian triangle than an alignment of temporary political interests. A thousand-year-old convergence of geopolitical gravity forces, a common set of values and similar collective memories connect these countries. Striving to retain and regain freedom is a key recurring element in all of those commonalities.
When founding the medieval Hungarian Kingdom, by choosing Rome over Byzantium King (Saint) Stephen I of the Árpád dynasty tried to create an alliance running from the South to the North. He sought to counterbalance the double pressure from East and West generated by the Caesar of Byzantium and the Emperor of the Holy Empire (the double pressure known so well by the Poles ever since). Stephen’s decision to turn to Pope Sylvester II was mutually beneficial to the Hungary and Rome. Hungary could signal its determination to remain independent both from the Bavarians/Germans and from the Byzantines, whereas the Western Christian Church, at the time so much less powerful than its Eastern counterpart, gained authority by establishing religious supremacy over the Hungarian, and, soon afterwards, the Polish Kingdom, both considerable powers in Europe at the time. The North-South orientation was reinforced repeatedly by a handful of dynastical marriages between the Hungarian Árpád and the Polish Piast dynasties.
When at the beginning of 14th Century, the House of Árpád became extinct in Hungary, after some years of chaos it was again the Italian peninsula from where political power could gain stable legitimacy. Charles Robert of the Naples Anjou dynasty married Elisabeth Łokietek, the daughter of Polish King Ladislaus I. Sealed by this marriage, Ladislaus sought a Hungarian-Polish alliance against the Teutonic Order. Charles Robert’s son, Louis became Hungarian king, and when the Piast dynasty ended in Poland, he ascended the Polish throne, too. At the same time, he wanted to retain his patrimonies in Italy, conducting a series of campaigns against his local adversaries in Naples. The decades of the Anjou are considered a golden age in Hungarian history. It was then that Charles Robert (Charles I) laid the groundwork for modern Central European politics. The Congress of Visegrád, convoked by Charles I and attended by the Bohemian and the Polish kings in 1335 meant to be an anti-Habsburg alliance, among others by agreeing to bypass the heavily taxed merchant routes controlled by Vienna. Thus, there is considerable Italian political experience in the DNA of the Visegrád Cooperation (one of the many reasons why the idea of Lombardy joining V4 as an observing member, which emerged a couple of years ago, is not far-fetched at all).
This South-North alliance proved efficient not only in reducing East-West pressure, but also as a bulwark against Islam, embodied by the Ottoman Empire at the time.
The history of the 350-year-long struggle against the Muslim conquerors is utmost complex, but it is fair to state that a decisive victory could only be reached when, at long last, the Pope, Venice, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Habsburg Monarch were able to join forces forming the Holy League (the Kingdom of Hungary contributed 15000 soldiers). One of the biggest victories of the alliance, the liberation of Vienna in 1683, is marked by the commandership of the Polish king Jan Sobieski and of the ‘Italian’ Eugene of Savoy.
Freedom. This is the key concept that informs Hungarian, Polish and Italian politics in the second part of the millennium. Hungary, defending the remainder of its sovereignty against the Ottomans and striving for independence among the puzzle pieces of different entities subjected to the Habsburgs. The Poles, torn into three parts, desperately wanting to re-establish the independent Polish state. The various Italian states striving for self-determination, finally achieving it by joining forces and creating the modern Italian state. The sense that the liberty of the three nations is interdependent has been present for centuries. During the Hungarian revolution and war of independence of 1848–49, it was the Poles and the Italians who formed the largest foreign legions to fight ‘for our common freedom’.
It was the concept of freedom that was able to reach over the two sides of the iron curtain in 1956, too. The Hungarian revolution in October was a sequel to the uprising of Polish workers in Poznań in June in the same year. The demonstration started at the monument of the Polish general Józef Bem, demanding to ‘Follow the Polish way’, as it was written on some of the placards. It was the Polish-inspired Hungarian Revolution that opened the eyes of many Italian intellectuals about the true nature of the Communist system, including the famous writer Italo Calvino, who left the Italian Communist Party upon realising the how brutally the revolution was crushed with Soviet tanks. It is since then that there is a consciousness of how the fight for liberty in Central Europe affects Italy (the song commemorating 1956 titled ‘Avanti ragazzi di Buda’ is well-known to this day by most Italians). In 2005, the Italian parliament adopted a law that proclaimed 9 November, the fall of Berlin Wall, the Day of Liberty. On the most recent anniversary, Giorgia Meloni, already prime minister of Italy, stated: ‘The strength and solidity of our democracies has been made possible by ending those totalitarian regimes, and by the sacrifice of all those people who strived and fought, making it possible for us to live in a free world.’
Today it is again the ideal of freedom that connects Hungary, Poland and Italy.
In all three countries people voted for governments that promised to follow the interest of their own nations, rather than what New York, Moscow, Berlin, Istanbul or Paris dictates or expects. This does not mean that the Hungarian, Polish and Italian right-wing governments would want to dismantle the European Union, as we hear it from time to time by different globalist sirens. Au contraire! What we have seen in the case of Poland and Hungary in recent years is that the EU institutions are repeatedly breaching the Lisbon Treaties by vindicating a say in competences that are conferred to the member states, for instance with regard to the judiciary system or the educational sector.
On top of that, the Commission embarrasses itself not only with legally questionable acts, but also by being an untrustworthy partner—as we saw in the case of the negotiations with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has unambiguously indicated that during the negotiations with the Commission, there were persons who simply lied to him: ‘It turns out that for the European Commission and its representatives, and some EU politicians in the European institutions, the words they said then, or the words that were said then, do not matter.’. Giorgia Meloni chose to elegantly turn a blind eye on the outrageous words of Ursula von der Leyen (‘If things go in a difficult direction in Italy, we have tools’), but there is a chance that the Italian government will fall victim to the same attacks on Italian freedom and sovereignty that were aimed at Poland and Hungary in the last years. Thus, the ‘Pro Libertate’ Alliance (I prefer to name the Hungarian–Polish– Italian triangle in Latin, to reflect the common cultural and intellectual roots) might need to join forces in defending national liberty, defending the Treaties (not excluding their reforms), and defending true European values that are often mistaken for the interests of certain great powers.
It is vital to defend not only the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual patrimony and freedom of the true Europe, but also its physical freedom. Defending the external borders, controlling who can enter and who cannot, should be not only the obvious, but also, in theory, the legally binding duties of all the Member States, especially those on the fringes. However, instead of gratitude, the V4 countries, and most of all Hungary, have been subject to constant contempt ever since the Orbán government raised a fence to resists the waves of migrants who want to enter the EU illegally. Matteo Salvini ended up in court for defending the maritime borders of Italy when he was minister of the interior in 2018–2019. Salvini, currently minister for Infrastructure and Transport, now collaborates tightly with the current interior minister Matteo Piantedosi, who used to be his chief of staff back then, so we can expect a migration policy similar to that of the Salvini years. The decrees are signed by both ministers, Salvini communicates a lot about illegal migration, so we can expect a migration policy similar to that of those years. And, in turn, the new cabinet can expect similar attacks from the globalist media, NGOs and their political allies in New York, Berlin, Brussels etc., too. Therefore, an alliance on migration issues in the European Council and other institutions seems to be crucial at this point.
Be it for a deliberate desire to destabilize Europe, to ‘import’ future leftist voters, or just for endless naivety or hypocrisy, migration is overflowing the continent. Conservative parties should raise their voices not only for Europe but for the world; help should be taken to where the challenges are, to the countries where people are fleeing from. In case of wars, the help should be peace, in case of economic challenges, it should be developing basic infrastructure, tuition, health care, and so on. The governmental Hungary Helps programme offers exactly that. In 2020, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Hungarian the Polish Government to help those persecuted for their religion in the Middle East, and a taskforce has been established to share the relevant knowledge and experience. Under the first Lega–Five Star cabinet, Italy developed a similar programme, which was given up under the Five Star–Partito Democratico cabinet and its funding was reallocated to purposes facilitating migration. These three countries could achieve now more than symbolic results in helping people in need, which will be in line with Giorgia Meloni’s promise to collaborate with North African countries on stopping illegal migration. But above all: these three countries can strengthen people’s sense of responsibility for the homeland they were born in. As the verses of the famous Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty put it: ‘May fortune’s hand bless or beat you/Here you must live and die!’
One of the reasons many cite to advocate for the necessity of migration is the demographic decline of Europe.
Neither the Left nor the European Union have a defined family policy; instead, they have a ‘transportation policy’. Whereas Hungary respects those countries that wish to handle the demographic challenges with the help of migration, Hungary also demands respect in return for her choice of favouring natality over migration. Rather than importing people, the pro-family measures of the Hungarian government have managed to halt the decline of the fertility rate in Hungary in the course of a decade.
Demography and family policy are among the most important parts of President Katalin Novák’s portfolio. In her campaign, Giorgia Meloni also named natality as her most important priority. As she writes in her autobiography: ‘Children are love, the most absolute love to exist.’ When Novák congratulated Meloni on her victory, in her response she highlighted family issues where the two of them could closely collaborate. The Polish Government is among the most pro-family cabinets in Europe. The recent victories of the Law and Justice party were mainly the result of first promising very serious financial help to families with children, and then keeping those promises. Beata Szydło’s and Mateusz Morawiecki’s governments have not only given financial support to families but have also restored the dignity of the family as the core element of our societies. Hence, family, and pro-life issues will be another key topic to connect the three countries.
However numerous the fields of cooperation are (and we named only some of the most important ones), there are some serious challenges threatening the Hungarian-Polish-Italian cooperation that the governments and governing parties had better prepare for…
In the second part of this article we will elaborate on these challenges.
 Transcript of President Andrzej Duda’s interview with Radio Zet, (27 July 2022), Prezydent.pl, https://www.prezydent.pl/aktualnosci/wypowiedzi-prezydenta-rp/wywiady/wywiad-dla-radia-zet,57936, accessed 5 Nov. 2022.