God and Russia dominate Salvini trip to Poland … EU OBSERVER
God and Russia dominate Salvini trip to Poland
By ANDREW RETTMAN
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
But Salvini’s pro-Russian views could still block the formation of the new group.
“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 positioned Italy and Poland as defenders of orthodox values against an EU which threatens traditional families by promoting LGBTI rights.
Poland had rightly said “Europe must return to its identity, to its Judeo-Christian roots – which is in 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 shared points, 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 home the point 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.”
He also said the EU “dream” had turned into a “nightmare … of unemployment, uncertainty, and lack of security”.
Salvini spoke after meeting Polish interior minister Joachim Brudzinski and laying flowers at a WWII memorial in Warsaw.
He tried to appeal to Polish interests as well as to right-wing feeling by mentioning judicial affairs, migrants, and agriculture.
Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), is facing possible EU sanctions over its judicial reforms and its boycott of EU migrant quotas, in disputes that could see the EU cut future 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, lent Salvini support for Italy’s plan to splurge on welfare over and above EU fiscal limits.
The two men spoke of the idea “that there’s no place … for discriminatory treatment of member states by EU institutions”, Morawiecki’s spokeswoman said, referring to Italy’s gripe that it was being punished,
while other over-spenders, such as France, got off the hook.
“I talk to my Italian friends and they are very upset about this treatment,” Morawiecki told US broadcaster CNBC the same day.
He also complained about EU intransigence on judicial reforms, saying “we are ready for a wide and deep compromise [with the EU], and this has been rejected.”
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 exists divergence in points of view between PiS and the League [Salvini’s party]”, she
The main sticking point, according to Polish sources cited by Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, was Russia.
Poland has a historic distrust of Russia and Kaczynski himself believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin assassinated his twin brother, the late Polish president Lech Kaczynski, in the Smolensk air disaster in 2010.
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 Russian propaganda manuals.
Salvini did not give a press conference after meeting Kaczynski.
He said while in Poland that he was against unjustified aggression, in a nod to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But he once again attacked EU sanctions on Russia in what might have proved to be a political mistake.
“Instead of soothing and solving, [sanctions] create 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, despite there
being no evidence of the EU’s economic “destruction”.
Salvini’s also aims to pull Austrian, Dutch, French, and Swedish parties into his new league in the hope of gaining some 140 MEPs in the new European Parliament after elections in May.
Brudzinski, the Polish interior minister, who invited Salvini to Warsaw, said on Wednesday that no matters what happens with the project, it was wrong to “position us [PiS] as extremely anti-European”, because
Poland 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 “something 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.