The leaders of the right-wing populist parties will meet in Warsaw on Saturday in a bid to bring about change in the European Union, which they accuse of undermining sovereign nation-states.
“We want to change the policy of Brussels,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wrote on Facebook before Saturday’s meeting.
On the agenda is the creation of a new nationalist alliance that would become the second largest grouping in the European Parliament.
“We have been working for months to create a strong party family, hopefully we can take a step towards this goal today or tomorrow,” Orban said.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s nationalist ruling party, opened the meeting in Warsaw.
Attendees include Orban and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, among others.
About a dozen activists protested outside as talks began, shouting “No to fascism!”
The meeting follows a visit by Le Pen to Budapest in October that was part of an effort by her and Orban to consolidate the European right.
It also comes as the Polish and Hungarian governments remain locked in a bitter confrontation with the EU, which is withholding funds from both countries for a democratic setback.
Towards a group in the European Parliament?
Le Pen, a candidate for France’s presidential election in April, said on Friday the meeting would be “an important step” but did not expect any imminent announcement from a new group.
“We can be optimistic about the launch of this political force in the coming months,” he said.
A notable absentee is Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian League, who issued a statement saying “the time is right” for the new group.
Salvini was one of the signatories to a statement in July from 16 parties and movements announcing plans for a “grand alliance” in the European Parliament, the prelude to Saturday’s talks.
The League and the Le Pen National Rally are in the Identity and Democracy Group of the European Parliament, while PiS, Vox and the Italian Brothers party are in the Group of European Conservatives and Reformists.
Fidesz de Orban left the center-right European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, in March and is looking for a new home.
Wojciech Przybylski, editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight, a politics magazine focused on Central Europe, said there is a paradox in a “transnational gathering of nationalist parties.” He believes the event was organized so that party leaders can show their voters that they “are not alone.”
Both the Hungarian and Polish ruling parties, he noted, are “in serious trouble,” with Orban’s Fidesz party forced to leave the main group of conservatives in the European Parliament, and Poland’s ruling populists seeing a dip in popularity at home. .
“This is essentially a public relations stunt,” Przybylski said.
Le Pen repairs ties with Poland
Kaczynski’s welcome to Le Pen marks a recent change of mind for Poland’s ruling conservatives. The ruling Law and Justice party had long refused to cooperate with the French presidential candidate due to its warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a detour in a country long dominated by Russian and Soviet rule.
“We have as much in common with Miss Le Pen as with Mr Putin,” Kaczynski commented in 2017. Two years later, he described Le Pen’s party as one of several groups in Europe that were “obviously linked to Moscow and received its support, “citing those ties as an impediment to cooperation.
But Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met Le Pen in Brussels in October and invited her to dinner in Warsaw on Friday night.
In a tweet, Le Pen posted a photo of herself with Morawiecki and thanked her for welcoming her. She said they share the desire for “a Europe of nations to return to the peoples of Europe their freedom and sovereignty.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism