June 5, 2019
By Joanna Plucinska and Robin Emmott
WARSAW/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Far-right parties’ hopes of forging a powerful new bloc in the new European Parliament suffered a blow on Wednesday when Poland’s ruling nationalists ruled out joining such a grouping due to sharp differences over relations with Russia.
Italy’s far-right League was one of the biggest winners in last month’s EU elections and its leader, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, has sought to persuade Europe’s nationalist parties to set aside their differences and form a 10-party European Alliance for People and Nations in the new assembly.
Last week, however, Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban all but ruled out joining Salvini’s eurosceptic group and on Wednesday Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), also expressed doubts.
“When it comes to Mr Salvini, here we have a problem that he wants to create a new group with formations that we aren’t able to accept,” Kaczynski told Polish private Radio Wnet.
“This is a group called National Rally (of France), belonging to Ms (Marine) Le Pen. It’s also the Alternative for Germany,” he said. “This is something that we cannot accept under any circumstances.”
Le Pen’s party, the Alternative for Germany and Salvini’s League all have relatively good relations with Russia, a stance that PiS, steeped in traditional Polish distrust of the Kremlin, does not share.
PiS, which espouses traditional Catholic values and resistance to what it sees as Russian expansionism in Ukraine and elsewhere, won 26 of 51 seats allotted to Poland in the new European Parliament.
It is expected to remain in the European Conservatives and Reformists grouping in the assembly.
Salvini had hoped Europe’s eurosceptic parties’ shared desire to shape the bloc’s future by returning more powers to member states and imposing further curbs on immigration would trump any concerns about Russian interference.
Overall, far-right parties also did less well than expected in the EU election, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands.
In Hungary, Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said last week he did not see “much chance for co-operation on a party level or in a joint parliamentary group”.
Orban, suspended from the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), unexpectedly dropped contentious judicial reforms last week in an apparent gesture to appease mainstream EU allies.
(Additional reporting by Anna Koper in Warsaw; Editing by Gareth Jones)