Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

Salvini invokes God and Russia on Poland trip

  • Jaroslaw Kaczynski at unveiling of new monument to his late brother, Lech, in Warsaw on 10 November (Photo: pis.org.pl)

Orthodox values, antipathy to Muslim migrants, and opposition to EU institutions should form the backbone of a new Italian-Polish league in Europe, Italy's Matteo Salvini has said.

But Salvini's pro-Russian views could still block formation of the new group.

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  • Matteo Salvini in Putin T-shirt at Kremlin in 2018, as shown on Russian TV at the time (Photo: russia.tv)

"Because the Franco-German axis has dominated Europe for years, we want a new balance, a new energy ... Poland and Italy will be the heroes of this new European spring, this rebirth of real European values," the Italian deputy prime minister and interior minister said in Warsaw on Wednesday (9 January).

He described Italy and Poland as defenders of orthodox values against an EU which threatened traditional families by promoting LGBTI rights.

Poland had rightly said "Europe must return to its identity, to its Judeo-Christian roots - which is being rejected in Brussels in a crazy way, where family values are rejected," Salvini said.

The Italian politician invoked the late Polish pope, John Paul II, claiming the late cleric had also wanted a "Europe of values, identity, countries and nations, respect".

The new Italian-Polish league ought to focus on 10 items, Salvini added, listing seven of them as: "security, border defence, family values, support for agriculture, freedom of choice in judicial affairs, schools, or the environment".

He hammered the points on keeping out Muslim migrants and on opposition to EU institutions, saying: "Countries must be able to defend their borders and citizens without outside [EU] interference."

The EU "was a "nightmare ... of unemployment, uncertainty, and lack of security" for ordinary people, he also said.

He spoke after meeting Polish interior minister Joachim Brudzinski and visiting a WWII memorial in Warsaw.

He appealed to Polish interests as well as to right-wing feeling by mentioning judicial affairs and agriculture.

Polish interests

Poland's ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), is facing possible sanctions over its judicial reforms and its boycott of EU migrant quotas, in disputes that could see cuts in EU subsidies for Polish farmers.

Salvini also met Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and PiS party chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski later the same day.

Morawiecki, for his part, backed Salvini for splurging on welfare in Italy in defiance of EU fiscal limits.

Poland and Italy believed "there's no place ... for discriminatory treatment of member states by EU institutions", Morawiecki's spokeswoman said, referring to gripes that Italy was facing EU disciplinary measures, while other overspenders, such as France, were not.

"I talk to my Italian friends and they're very upset about this," Morawiecki told US broadcaster CNBC the same day.

Salvini's meeting with Kaczynski, Poland's de facto leader, sounded less cozy, however.

The talks "opened the path to further contacts," Kaczynski's spokeswoman said, but "matters were [also] raised where there was divergence in points of view between PiS and the League [Salvini's party]", she added.

The main divergence, according to insiders cited by Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, was Russia.

Poland has a historical distrust of Russia and Kaczynski believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin assassinated his twin brother, the late Polish president Lech Kaczynski, in the Smolensk air disaster in 2010.

Putin fan

But Salvini is a self-avowed Putin fan who opposes EU sanctions on Russia, and whose lines on EU gay rights and Germany's EU "axis" come straight out of Russia's propaganda manuals.

Salvini did not give a press conference after his Kaczynski talks.

But the Italian populist, while in Poland, repeated his pro-Russia line in what might have been a political mistake.

"Instead of soothing and solving, it [the EU sanctions regime] creates risk of escalation and prolongation of problems," Salvini said.

"Sanctions have not achieved any concrete result ... while [Russian] counter-sanctions are destroying the economies of EU countries. If we keep going down this road, it won't end well," he added.

There is no evidence of the EU's economic "destruction" at Russia's hands.

Salvini also aims to get Austrian, Dutch, French, and Swedish far-right parties into his new group in the hope of getting 140 or so MEPs in the European Parliament (EP) after EU elections in May.

Brudzinski, the Polish interior minister, who invited Salvini to Warsaw, said on Wednesday that no matter what happens with the EP project, it was wrong to "position us [PiS] as [being] extremely anti-European", because Kaczynski wanted to "strengthen the EU and reform it from within".

But for Poland's pro-EU opposition party, the Civic Platform, Salvini's Polish visit was still "shocking".

"The meeting between Kaczynski and Salvini was something extraordinary. I believe they're talking about how to create a new EU variant, how to dismantle it [the EU], how to coordinate anti-European forces," Civic Platform chief Grzegorz Schetyna said.

Italy and Poland in talks on anti-EU league

Poland and Italy's right-wing rulers are to cement their "special relations" in Warsaw, in what could make Salvini's anti-EU group a major force in the EP.

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