January 9, 2019 / 12:06 PM / 7 months ago

Italy and Poland want 'new spring' in Europe: Salvini

WARSAW (Reuters) - Italy and Poland should join forces to reshape Europe, Italy’s far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday during a visit to Warsaw to drum up support for a eurosceptic alliance to contest May elections to the European Parliament.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski attend a joint news conference in Warsaw, Poland January 9, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Slawomir Kaminski via REUTERS

The eurosceptic governments in Rome and Warsaw are both keen to repatriate some EU powers from Brussels to national capitals and hope like-minded parties will do well in the May elections, which will follow Britain’s planned exit from the bloc in March.

“Poland and Italy will be part of the new spring of Europe, the renaissance of European values,” he told a press conference with Poland’s Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski.

Salvini’s visit to Warsaw was initiated by Brudzinski, who said the two had discussed migration and EU border security.

Salvini has repeatedly railed against the EU and says the May elections are vital for creating a “reformist” bloc that can overhaul Brussels institutions from within.

Salvini, whose anti-immigrant League is the most popular party in Italy, said his talks on Wednesday with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), had gone well.

PiS has echoed the League’s calls for Brussels to interfere less in the affairs of EU member states, though the parties are not currently allied in the European Parliament.

“At a party level, we have started a journey, a sharing of ideas, visions and projects for the future of the European Parliament that will, at long last, be profoundly different to what went before,” Salvini said.

“We started a dialogue. To close a deal in half an hour seems overly optimistic,” he added.

Salvini said he wanted to put together an alliance of like-minded EU parties that would campaign on a shared, 10-point program that has yet to be fully defined.

“We proposed a common program to be offered to other parties and peoples in Europe founded on certain themes, like (economic) growth, security, the family, Europe’s Christian roots that some have denied,” Salvini said.

At present, Salvini is allied to a small group of far-right parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France and the anti-Islam Freedom Party in the Netherlands. But he wants to extend its reach and draw in conservative groups like PiS.

Previous attempts by populist right-wing parties to form a eurosceptic alliance in the European Parliament have not been very successful as they often have different priorities or interests and show little appetite for compromise.

Despite its euroscepticism, PiS has recently been trying to mend fences with Brussels, agreeing to reverse a law criticized by the EU that had forced Polish Supreme Court judges into early retirement.

Salvini has also called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia, while Kaczynski and other Polish conservatives support them and are deeply distrustful of Moscow.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw and Crispian Balmer in Rome; Editing by Gareth Jones

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