Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Italy's far-right Salvini calls for populist 'European spring'

Italy's far-right Salvini calls for populist 'European spring'

Italy's deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, said during a visit to Warsaw on Wednesday that Italy and Poland should join forces in a euro-sceptic alliance to contest the European vote.

"Poland and Italy will be part of the new spring of Europe, the renaissance of European values", he told reporters during a press conference with Poland's Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski. He said the deal would only encourage human traffickers to launch more unseaworthy boats across the Mediterranean, reiterating his longstanding opposition to accepting any more new arrivals. They are shaping up into a battle between leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron who seek greater integration, and populist euroskeptics like Salvini and Orban.

"We proposed a common programme 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.

Salvini's League, which is one of two parties in Italy's ruling coalition, and Kaczynski's Law and Justice party, which governs alone, are both staunchly anti-migrant and criticize how the European Union functions today.

Salvini added that they spoke about Poland and Italy's cooperation on building a new continent.

As for Salvini's coalition partner, Luigi Di Maio, he is preparing an election manifesto with European populist groups that are in coherence with his M5S.

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However, Polish authorities said on Thursday no agreement had been reached. After a meeting with Poland's ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Salvini expressed hopes that an "Italian-Polish axis" would replace the current "French-German axis".

However, Polish skepticism about Salvini's friendly approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin could be an impediment to collaboration.

Both populist governments have been embroiled in conflicts with Brussels over topics of national sovereignty. Poland's clash has involved changes to the judicial system seen as anti-democratic, while Italy's has centered on its budget spending. Salvini's visit is seen as sounding out a possible alliance with Poland's ruling EU-skeptic party ahead of spring elections for the European Parliament.

Poland's ruling party faced sharp comments from domestic critics for its apparent openness to Salvini.

Salvini's anti-immigration League party has ruled in coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement since a general election previous year.

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