Italy far-right minister furious after migrant deal

Lamar Ellis
January 12, 2019

Italy's far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday he wants his country and Poland to join forces to reshape Europe in his quest for a eurosceptic alliance ahead of elections in May.

"We are preparing a new equilibrium and new energy in Europe and Poland and Italy, absolutely, will lead this new European spring", Salvini said in the Polish capital Warsaw, adding that "we have a new plan for Europe" meant to replace the dominant "French-German axis".

Jacek Czaputowicz, the foreign minister, recently said the Salvini-Kaczynski encounter would be "a meeting at the highest level" and said it would involve discussions about the elections to the European Parliament.

Salvini, writing on Twitter on Wednesday, accused Malta of failing to keep its promise of taking in 50 of the 447 migrants who had arrived in Pozzallo on 16 July 2018.

In turn, the PiS government has been accused by opponents at home and overseas of tilting towards authoritarianism and is the subject of an unprecedented rule-of-law investigation by the EU.

Salvini, whose anti-immigrant League is the most popular party in Italy, said his talks on Wednesday with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), had gone well.

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

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Salvini was speaking during a trip in which he held talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Interior Minister Joachim Brudziński.

"In Europe, one has always spoken about a French-German axis".

His aim, Salvini said, is to build "a common alliance of who wants to save Europe".

"It will be the best answer to all the Eurosceptics", he suggested - "and maybe their popular movements will give life to a new European spring, a dream that someone stole from us in the name of finance and banking".

The eurosceptic governments in Rome and Warsaw are both keen to repatriate some European Union powers from Brussels to national capitals and hope like-minded parties will do well in the May elections, which will follow Britain's planned exit from the bloc in March. 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.

The ruling party is facing sharp rebuke by its domestic critics for its apparent openness to working with Salvini.

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

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