WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Members of Poland's populist ruling party on Thursday signalled some reservations about forming an alliance with Italy's anti-migrant League party.
The head of the League, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, was in Warsaw on Wednesday trying to forge an alliance with Poland's ruling populists before European Parliament elections in May. After a meeting with Poland's ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Salvini expressed hopes that an "Italian-Polish axis" would replace the current "French-German axis."
Salvini said he envisioned a reformed European Union that will be less bureaucratic and with strong border security to keep out migrants, and one that returns more power from Brussels to the nation states.
But Polish authorities stressed that no agreement had been reached. Commentators in Poland also argued that there are good reasons for Polish wariness about Salvini, who is seen as overly pro-Russian by many people in Poland, which has suffered under Moscow's rule for most of the past two centuries.
Lawmaker Witold Waszczykowski, a former foreign minister, said "the only arrangements that have been made concern further meetings and further consultations, but there are no arrangements for a deal, a creation in advance of alliances or common clubs in the European Parliament."
A leading commentator for the Rzeczpospolita daily, Michal Szuldrzynski, said he believed that Salvini heard more about what divides the League and Law and Justice than what unites them during the visit. Salvini also met with the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, and the interior minister, Joachim Brudzinski.
"Kaczynski showed that he doesn't want to be a part of a euroskeptic alliance under the patronage of the Kremlin," Szuldrzynski wrote in Thursday's paper.
In Budapest on Thursday, Hungary's anti-immigrant prime minister, Viktor Orban, called Salvini "my own hero." He voiced hopes that the Polish and Italian governments can play a guiding role in a European nationalist surge.
All three leaders — Orban, Kaczynski and Salvini — say they want to keep out migrants to preserve Europe's Christian heritage and protect their citizens' security. They object to further European integration that they see as an erosion of national sovereignty.
"The Polish-Italian or Warsaw-Rome axis is one of the greatest developments with which the year could have started, so I have great hopes for this," Orban said.
The European Parliament elections will be held across the EU from May 23-26. They are shaping up into a battle between leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron who seek greater integration, and populist euroskeptics like Salvini and Orban.
"Kaczynski doesn't like Brussels and doesn't like the direction of European integration," Szuldrzynski said. "But that doesn't mean that he wants to build an alliance with forces that want Europe to move in a direction that from a geopolitical point of view would not be acceptable to Poland."
AP Correspondent Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.