Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban met his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, and Italian right-wing Lega party chief Matteo Salvini on April 1 to try to lay the groundwork for a new European political grouping.
Orban's right-wing Fidesz last month quit the center-right European People's Party (EPP), two weeks after walking out of the alliance's group in the European Parliament.
"We are going to launch a new platform, an organization, a process which will give those citizens who believe in a traditional Europe the representation that they deserve," Orban said ahead of the meeting with Morawiecki and Salvini in Budapest.
After the meeting, Orban welcomed "the first step of a long road together."
"We have agreed to continue the work. We will meet in May, either in Rome or in Warsaw. The date will depend on the pandemic," the Hungarian leader told a joint news conference.
Fidesz's exit from the EPP put an end to years of debate inside the conservative European-wide group about whether Orban's party should be allowed to remain, given Brussel's concerns about the rule of law in Hungary.
In his search for new allies, Orban has turned to Morawiecki's Law and Justice (PiS) party, as well as the anti-immigration and euroskeptic Salvini.
"Today it is necessary to discuss building a strong group which will defend the traditional, normal values on which European civilization has developed," Morawiecki said before setting off for the Hungarian capital.
Salvini said earlier this week that if non-EPP right-wing groups were to join forces they could form the second-largest grouping in the European Parliament -- after the EPP itself -- and gain sizable clout.
After the meeting, Salvini spoke of a "path which begins today and which will continue in several stages in different European capitals, expanding the group."
Orban has a very close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has spoken up against EU sanctions on Russia. Hungary became the first EU country to use a Russian vaccine for COVID-19.
Salvini is also pro-Russia, but that may not sit well with Morawiecki and could cause unease among other potential allies, diplomats say.