WARSAW/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Far-right parties’ hopes of forging a powerful new eurosceptic bloc in the European Parliament suffered a double blow on Wednesday when Poland’s ruling nationalists and Britain’s Brexit Party both said they would not join such a grouping.
Italy’s far-right League was one of the biggest winners in last month’s EU elections and its leader, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, has sought to persuade Europe’s nationalist parties to set aside their differences and form a 10-party European Alliance for People and Nations in the new assembly.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), ruled out joining on account of the pro-Russian stance of Salvini, France’s National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which won 29 of Britain’s 72 seats in the European Parliament, also said it would not join the putative new grouping, though it gave no reason. Britain is due to quit the EU on Oct. 31 but its lawmakers will join the European Parliament in July and stay until Brexit happens.
Expressing his scepticism about Salvini’s plans, Kaczynski told Polish private Radio Wnet: “When it comes to Mr Salvini, here we have a problem that he wants to create a new group with formations that we aren’t able to accept.”
“This is a group called National Rally belonging to Ms Le Pen. It’s also the Alternative for Germany,” he said. “This is something that we cannot accept under any circumstances.”
Le Pen’s party, Germany’s AfD and Salvini’s League all have good relations with Russia, a stance that PiS, steeped in traditional Polish distrust of the Kremlin, does not share.
PiS, which espouses traditional Catholic values and resistance to what it sees as Russian expansionism in Ukraine and elsewhere, won 26 of 51 seats allotted to Poland in the European Parliament.
It is expected to remain in the European Conservatives and Reformists grouping in the assembly.
Salvini had hoped Europe’s eurosceptic parties’ shared desire to shape the bloc’s future by returning more powers to member states and imposing further curbs on immigration would trump any concerns about Russian interference.
Overall, far-right parties did less well than expected in the EU election, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands.
Last week, Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban also distanced his Fidesz party from Salvini’s eurosceptic group as he tries to repair strained ties with the EU’s mainstream center-right parties.
Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said he did not see “much chance for co-operation on a party level or in a joint parliamentary group”.
Orban, suspended from the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), has unexpectedly dropped contentious judicial reforms in an apparent gesture to appease mainstream EU allies.
Additional reporting by Anna Koper in Warsaw; Editing by Gareth Jones