Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the country’s Lega (League) party, met with the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczyński, on December 10 to discuss the possibility of forming a conservative, Euroscpetic political alliance ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections in an effort to “reshape Europe,” according to a statement from Salvini’s office.
The move is part of a recent series of meeting by conservative parties in Europe as they look to consolidate their support in order to maximise their influence in the next European Parliament.
Salvini hopes to foster a strategic alliance with PiS, now a member of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe. He moved to further Italy’s relationship with Lega’s Polish ideological counterparts after he met with the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, and Interior Minister, Joachim Brudziński. Both Salvini and Morawiecki have accused the European Commission of catering to neo-liberal, pan-European parties from France and Germany.
Morawiecki recently reiterated he and Salvini’s position in comments with journalists where he talked about the EU’s endemic “discrimination” against various countries who have expressed critical views of the Brussels establishment and cited how the European Commission differed on budget policy during negotiations with France and Italy.
“One country, Italy, has a budget deficit of 2.4% and another country (France) has a deficit that far exceeds 3%, which is the Maastricht Treaty criteria, and they are treated differently because of some other aspects…There has to be an equal approach to countries in similar situations,” said Morawiecki.
The comparison echoes similar statements by Salvini and the current anti-establishment Italian parliament that swept to power having rid a Eurosceptic populist wave that has gripped the country since the migrant crisis began nearly four years ago.
Both the PiS and the Lega have agreed that some EU competencies must be devolved to the European Union’s individual members, especially following Brexit.
“Poland and Italy will be part of a new spring in Europe, the renaissance of European values,” Salvini told a press conference with Poland’s Brudzinski on December 9.
Both Lega and PiS face challenges, however, when it comes to solidifying their relationship. The two parties are diametrically opposed to one another when it comes to their policies on Russia. Salvini is a self-described Russophile and a vocal admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has repeatedly spoken out against his Italy’s membership in NATO, as well as its economic and military alliance with the United States, and has called for an immediate end to the EU’s sanctions against Moscow as well as full recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, which it invaded and seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Poland, one of Russia’s oldest and most bitter enemies throughout history, has taken the lead in Europe’s response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Warsaw responded to Putin’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region by arming and providing training to Kyiv’s once-beleaguered forces. The Polish government under the PiS remains one of the largest contributors and staunchest pro-Western allies in the NATO alliance and has called on the US and UK to permanently station troops in Poland as a deterrent to further Russian attempts to reconstitute its Eastern European empire.