Did you hear the one about the disgraced Italian ex-PM who runs for European parliament in Hungary?
While this may sound like the setup of a joke involving once-famous Hungarian-Italian porn queen/MP Ilona Staller, a.k.a. “Cicciolina” the Hungarian media is giving at least semi-serious coverage to a report in a major Italian daily that disgraced former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may run for European Parliament from Hungary or another “eastern” EU member.
The idea is that Berlusconi – known to many of his fans as Il Cavaliere (“The Knight”) and to many of his critics as “the convict Berlusconi” – is in need of the parliamentary immunity that comes with being an MEP, and that his good friend Viktor Orbán (the two are pictured above in happier days) might delight in tweaking the European left’s nose by sending Silvio to Strasbourg.
So what are the odds of this actually happening? I can’t vouch for Bulgaria and Estonia, the other countries mentioned as new political homes for Berlusconi, but I would be very, very surprised if Orbán went for it. Just not a lot of upside, and quite a bit of risks.
Which more or less summarizes the other big and jarring story linking Hungary and Italy today. (Yes, there are two.) In some apparently unguarded comments this morning, Gianni Franco Papa, the regional head of Italian banking giant Unicredit let it slip that it might take its money and flee Hungary if the Orbán government continues to hammer Hungary’s banks with even more profit-shredding taxes and regulations.
After the comments of the executive, Gianni Franco Papa, charged the wires the bank issued a statement saying it had no plans to sell up and get out. But Papa’s quotes (“We cannot keep on going like this. If they start again with a new round we will reconsider.”) speak for themselves, and the later statement from the bank also stressed that Unicredit has no interest in bidding for the local unit of Austrian peer Raiffeisen, which unlike Unicredit or Berlusconi has made it more or less clear it wishes it had never heard of Hungary.