Austrian far-right, Hungary's Orban form new EU alliance

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) -Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO), Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz and the populist Czech ANO party led by Andrej Babis are forming a new alliance in the European Parliament, they announced on Sunday.

The move would reorder but possibly also split nationalist forces in the assembly, provided four more parties join. Parties from at least a quarter of the European Union's 27 member states are needed to officially form a new political group.

While Fidesz has remained outside larger groupings since it parted ways with the mainstream centre-right European People's Party (EPP) in 2021, the FPO is part of the Identity and Democracy political group along with Marine Le Pen's National Rally party in France. ANO is not part of a political group.

"Today is a historic day because today we are entering a new era of European politics," FPO leader Herbert Kickl said in a address to the media attended by Babis and Orban convened at short notice in a Vienna hotel.

"This alliance is meant as a rocket that will bring other parties on board at the European level to join forces and give Europe a better future," Kickl said of the "new patriotic alliance".

Former Czech prime minister Babis said the new group would be called Patriots for Europe.

All three men cited the fight against illegal immigration, which has long been a pressing concern for them, as well as transferring more powers from Brussels back to member states.

In this month's European Parliament election, nationalist parties capitalised on voter disquiet over spiralling prices, migration and the cost of the green transition, and are looking to translate their seat gains into more influence on EU policy.

While the FPO has a clear lead in Austrian opinion polls ahead of a Sept. 29 parliamentary election, Orban faces a growing threat in Hungary from the new opposition party Tisza, which said this month it would join the EPP in the European Parliament.

"Today we are creating a political formation that in my view will be off to a flying start and will very quickly become the largest group of the European right," Orban said.

"This will happen within days and then the sky is the limit," he said.

The three men took no questions but the FPO said a press conference would be held in Brussels or Strasbourg soon with other parties joining the alliance.

(Additional reporting by Gergely Szakacs in BudapestEditing by Timothy Heritage and Gareth Jones)